By Caden Pearson
New York Justice Arthur Engoron pressed former President Donald Trump’s legal team on Tuesday for clarification amid a report that the former finance chief of the Trump Organization may be negotiating a plea deal for perjury in his civil fraud case.
Alan Weisselberg, a co-defendant in the civil case, is reportedly in talks with Manhattan prosecutors regarding a potential plea deal, according to an article published in The New York Times on Feb. 1. The deal, according to unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter, would purportedly require him to admit guilt to perjury charges related to his testimony in the trial before Justice Engoron.
The justice expressed concern over the potential implications of perjury in an email to counsels Kevin Wallace, Clifford Robert, Alina Habba, Chris Kise, Andrew Amer, Colleen Faherty, and Louis Solomon.
The article reports that Mr. Weisselberg “would have to admit that he lied on the witness stand” and during a pre-trial interview in the case Justice Engoron presides over.
“As the presiding magistrate, the trier of fact, and the judge of credibility, I, of course, want to know whether Mr. Weisselberg is now changing his tune and whether he is admitting he lied under oath in my courtroom at this trial,” Justice Engoron wrote. A copy of the email was sent to Allison Greenfield, the judge’s chief law clerk.
The reported perjury deal relates to allegations that Mr. Weisselberg lied about the size of President Trump’s Manhattan penthouse. However, if the reported perjury deal is true, Justice Engoron noted that he’d consider dismissing Mr. Weisselberg’s testimony on other matters.
“Although the Times article focuses on the size of the Trump Tower Penthouse, his testimony on other topics could also be called into question. I may also use this as a basis to invoke falsus in uno,” the justice wrote. This means that if he lied about one thing, he could be lying about everything.
The trial centers on allegations that the former president and his company, The Trump Organization, defrauded banks, insurers, and others by allegedly overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth in documents used in deals and to secure loans.
Justice Engoron, who concluded the 10-week bench trial late last year, is expected to issue a ruling as early as this week after delaying the verdict, which was originally due by Jan. 31.
Mr. Weisselberg’s possible plea deal adds a layer of complexity to the proceedings.
In his correspondence, Justice Engoron acknowledged the potential impact of perjury on the trial, stating, “Perjury—particularly in a high-profile trial—undermines the broader ends of justice and cannot be ignored.”
Emphasizing the urgency of the matter, Justice Engoron set a deadline of Wednesday at 5 p.m. for counsels to respond.
“By Wednesday at 5 p.m., please submit, as officers of the court, a letter to me detailing anything you know about this that would not violate any of your professional ethics or obligations,” Justice Engoron wrote.
He further urged President Trump’s lawyers to provide insights on how “I should address this matter, if at all, including the timing of the final decision.”
If found liable, the former president could face a lifetime ban from conducting business in New York and a hefty fine of $370 million.
During closing arguments, President Trump labeled the trial a “political witch hunt” and criticized Justice Engoron and New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the charges.
Last year, Ms. James, a Democrat, brought the case against the former president and his co-defendants, accusing them of using phony statements of financial condition in a number of business transactions.
Prior to the bench trial, Justice Engoron had already found President Trump liable for the case’s top fraud charge through a summary judgment. The trial was to decide the remaining claims of conspiracy, insurance fraud, and falsifying business records.
President Trump has consistently denied any wrongdoing, framing the case as a politically motivated scheme to undermine his 2024 presidential campaign. He is the leading front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination by far.
He has also expressed concerns about the broader impact of a potential loss in the case. He contends that such an outcome could have a chilling effect on businesses in New York City, potentially prompting other businesses to relocate.