OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
The civil fraud trial against Donald Trump and his company got off to another chaotic start on Friday in a Manhattan courtroom ahead of testimony from Eric Trump.
The Western Journal reported that an attorney for the former president set the contentious tone of the proceeding from the outset when he focused on perceived bias from the bench.
On Thursday, Breitbart News reported that Manhattan Superior Court clerk Allison Greenfield had made political donations to Democratic candidates, while The New York Times added that Judge Arthur Engoron has been passing notes back and forth with Greenfield during the trial, leading Trump attorney Christopher Kise to argue that created the “perception of bias” in the trial.
The Breitbart report said Greenfield “appears to have violated judicial rules preventing officers of the court from making excessive political donations.”
Breitbart noted that Kise informed the court that “the defense will have to give serious consideration to seeking a mistrial,” leading Engoron to respond that he was “worried about this,” according to The Daily Beast.
“To the extent that there is the perception of bias,” Kise said, he had an obligation “as a lawyer … at least mark it.”
Engoron “promised not to pound the table again, the bench,” but added that he had an “unfettered right to get assistance” from Greenfield, who is seated next to him in court. He added that he had “no idea” how that could indicate bias.
“You can say whatever you want about me. And that has been taken advantage of. I think that’s where there would be any appearance of bias, but I cut this case right down the middle,” said Engoron, who is a Democrat.
Kise responded that the trial was “treading in a dangerous area here.”
“The entire country, if not the world, is watching this proceeding,” Kise argued. “And the U.S. heretofore has been a model for integrity and impartiality in the judicial system since its founding. Nothing in here should create any appearance that the adherence to those principles has wavered.”
He also argued that Engoron was “entitled to receive (assistance), but from someone who has potentially demonstrable bias … and the manner in which that has taken place, we at least have to make a record.”
Kise set the contentious tone of the proceeding when he said that the allegations contained in the Breitbart report were “delivered to the court” Friday morning, adding that he may move for a mistrial given that “information” about “extrajudicial conduct” had already been raised.
“It’s not information, it’s an allegation,” Engoron responded, adding that he had not seen the report. Later, he called the claim that he knew about the story “absolutely untrue, OK?”
“I would have remembered receiving such an allegation,” he said, adding, “Let everybody in the room decide what they think of Breitbart. … It’s a shame things have descended to this level.”
The allegations against Greenfield are contained in a 72-page report filed by a Wisconsin man named Brock Fredin. The report cites a complaint claiming “that Greenfield has engaged in giving political donations to Democrat candidates and causes in excess of the amount of donations that court officials in New York are allowed to give on an annual basis.”
Kise also argued to the judge that the passing of notes between him and his clerk made it appear Greenfield was “co-judging” the trial, leading Engoron to level an accusation against Kise, stating that there “may be a bit of misogyny” in his attacks on Greenfield.
After finishing his testimony on Friday, Eric Trump said the civil trial was “a joke, it’s an absolute joke,” according to the New York Post.
“This is a big charade that is a huge waste of taxpayer money, and it’s the very reason everyone’s moving out of New York state, and I was actually one of them,” the former president’s son said.