For those who thought Trump was just pretending to want to address the court in his civil fraud trial — IT ME! — he got us good.
As New York litigator Mitchell Epner said, “That was not on my bingo card.”
Trump’s attorney Chris Kise, the former solicitor general of Florida, who has argued before the Supreme Court and knows damn well how trials go, has spammed Justice Arthur Engoron’s office for a week demanding that his client be allowed to present part of his own closing argument. After flatly refusing to agree that Trump would confine his topics to relevant, factual issues, Kise got the denial his client desired. Trump immediately howled on social about being suppressed, prompting the inevitable bomb threat at the judge’s home this morning.
But Trump and his lawyers had one more stunt planned for the day in their bid to win the news cycle.
First Kise and Alina Habba had yelled for more than two hours about Trump’s amazing net worth and the supposed witch hunt by the Attorney General. Then with just six minutes left in their allotted time, Kise renewed his request to have his client address the court. This was Trump’s cue. Without agreeing to the required preconditions, he launched into a broadside against the court and the prosecutors.
“We have a situation where I’m an innocent man. I’ve been persecuted by someone running for office… I’ve built buildings all over the city. I’ve never had a problem. Until now… they want to make sure I don’t win again. This is election interference,” he ranted, as reported by the Daily Beast’s Jose Pagliery, who was in the room.
Kise ignored the court’s remonstrance to control his client, counting on the court’s unwillingness to have the bailiff tackle a man with Secret Service protection — particularly with a hard stop at 1pm.
At 12:59, the judge indicated that Trump had one more minute.
“You can’t listen for more than one minute. This is a persecution,” Trump complained. But soon enough he stormed out of the courtroom, having successfully gotten the mic drop moment he came for.
Slow clap for an excellent troll, sir, you won the news cycle. But to the extent that the trial judge’s entirely discretionary exercise of his authority to bar a defendant from pinch hitting as his own lawyer was ever appealable, that issue is gone. Trump didn’t save his real estate empire, and his outburst will amount to little more than a couple of paragraphs in the final order noting that the defendant is clearly not remorseful and is unlikely to change his behavior if allowed to retain his real estate holdings.
After lunch, the prosecutors resumed their closing arguments. In the end, the needle never moved, and Trump is just as likely to face a crippling fine and the demise of his business as he was before his little gimmick.
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes the Law and Chaos substack and appears on the Opening Arguments podcast.