The judge in Donald Trump’s New York civil fraud trial sounds pretty angry about having to read in the New York Times that a defendant and key witness in his trial — ex-Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg — may be about to admit in another court that some of his testimony in front of him was a lie.
“Dear Counselors,” the fraud-trial judge, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, begins an acidly-worded email he sent Monday.
The email was added to the trial’s public docket on Tuesday. The “counsellors” it addresses are the lead solicitors for Trump’s defence team and the state attorney general’s office, whose fraud case has been on trial since October.
“As you are undoubtedly aware,” the email begins, “in an article in the February 1, 2024 on-line edition of the New York Times, headlined ‘Trump’s Former Finance Chief in Negotiations to Plead Guilty to Perjury,’ William K. Rashbaum, Jonah E. Bromwich, and Ben Protesss write that defendant Alan [sic] Weisselberg ‘is negotiating a deal with Manhattan prosecutors that would require him to plead guilty to perjury.'”
The Times story said that Weisselberg, 76, is in negotiations with the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
If he agrees to the plea deal that’s on the table, he would admit to lying under oath while testifying at trial, before Engoron, about the origin of a major fraud alleged in the attorney general’s case, Trump’s admitted tripling of the the size of his Manhattan triplex penthouse.
Weisselberg testified that tripling the size of Trump’s penthouse in financial records was a “de minimus,” or minor, mistake that he had little to do with.
It was Forbes that first raised the perjury flag on Weisselberg’s testimony. In disputing the ex-CFO’s claim that the penthouse’s worth was “never a concern of mine,” the magazine pointed to old emails between Weisselberg and the magazine they said showed otherwise.
“What’s more?” Engoron’s email says, quoting from the Times. Weisselberg, according to court documents, “‘would have to admit that he lied on the witness stand’ in the case pending before me (and during a pre-trial interview plaintiff conducted).”
Engoron, who appears enraged to be left out of the loop on such a critical topic—especially as he proceeds to compose what is expected to be a lengthy and potentially severe verdict—demands to know what is going on.
After all, he is the fraud trial’s “presiding magistrate, the trier of fact, and the judge of credibility.”
Engoron uses Latin to describe the potential trial monkey wrench that a Weisselberg perjury admission could constitute.
Would the admission be considered “false in uno?” He inquires, alluding to the Latin term “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus,” which means false in one, false in all.
“Of course, I want to hear if Mr. Weisselberg is suddenly changing his tune and admitting he lied under oath in my courtroom during this trial.
“Although the Times article focuses on the size of the Trump Tower Penthouse, his testimony on other topics could also be called into question,” Engoron writes, speculating on the size of this monkey wrench he has only now learned about.
Engoron gives the parties until Wednesday at 5 p.m. to send a letter outlining “anything you know about this that would not violate any of your professional ethics or obligations.”
“I would also appreciate knowing how you think I should address this matter, if at all, including the timing of the final decision,” he writes at the end of the email.
New York Attorney General Letitia James accused Trump of exaggerating his fortune by up to $3.6 billion per year in a decade’s worth of yearly net-worth statements, which he exploited to obtain $168 million in loan-interest savings.
Trump claims that his appraisals were cautiously modest. Lawyers for his co-defendants in the complaint, including the Trump Organisation, oldest sons Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump, Weisselberg, and another longtime Trump Organisation official, Jeffrey McConney, have all denied wrongdoing.
Attorneys for Trump and Weisselberg, as well as spokespersons for the Attorney General’s and Manhattan District Attorney’s offices, did not immediately reply to requests for comment.