Former Trump’s Finance Chief in Negotiations for Guilty Plea: Civil Fraud Trial Updates

NEW YORK (AP) – Lawyers involved in the civil fraud trial of former President Donald Trump shared with the judge on Wednesday that they had no information regarding a key witness who was reportedly negotiating a guilty plea for perjury. Judge Arthur Engoron had requested details from both the state lawyers and the defense counsel about the situation, which involves Allen Weisselberg, the former finance chief at Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.

Last week, The New York Times reported that Weisselberg was in talks with the Manhattan district attorney’s office to plead guilty to perjury. The publication cited anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter. Although unauthorized to speak publicly about it, two individuals familiar with the situation confirmed to The Associated Press that Manhattan prosecutors were considering a potential perjury charge against Weisselberg.

During the trial, Alina Habba, the lawyer representing Weisselberg in the civil fraud case, informed Engoron that she did not represent him in any criminal matters and had not been in contact with the Manhattan district attorney’s office regarding the reported plea negotiations or a potential perjury charge. Habba cited professional ethical obligations when declining to provide further details.

Kevin Wallace, senior enforcement counsel in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, stated that neither he nor any other state lawyers working on the fraud case had involvement in Weisselberg’s reported negotiations. Wallace explained that they were unaware of which parts of Weisselberg’s testimony were under scrutiny and whether he had admitted to testifying falsely.

Wallace did, however, note instances in which Weisselberg’s trial testimony contradicted the statements of other witnesses and the available evidence. For example, the former CFO claimed to have limited knowledge or awareness of how the valuation of Trump’s penthouse at Trump Tower was inflated on financial statements. Wallace asserted that given Weisselberg’s previous conviction for tax fraud, it was not surprising if he had lied on the witness stand.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Weisselberg’s testimony, Wallace argued against delaying the verdict, stating that doing so would inadvertently reward him and his co-defendants, including Trump, for potentially false testimony. The court officials expect Engoron’s verdict on the case, which centers on allegations of Trump inflating his wealth to deceive banks and insurers, to be ready by mid-February.

The defense lawyers objected to the judge’s request for a response, considering the report from The New York Times to be speculative media accounts. Trump’s lawyer, Christopher Kise, dismissed concerns about Weisselberg’s testimony as mere distractions meant to create a media frenzy and divert attention from the weaknesses in the state’s case.

The developments surrounding Weisselberg’s reported plea negotiations and potential perjury charge have raised questions about the credibility of his testimony in Trump’s civil fraud trial. As the court awaits the verdict, the implications of these developments remain uncertain for both Weisselberg and Trump.

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