Former President Donald Trump’s criticism of what he and his supporters view as a highly politicized civil case in New York elicited concern from a CNN panel. Trump accused Judge Arthur Engoron of bias. Engoron previously ruled that Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, engaged in multiple instances of fraud while building his real estate empire.
Trump vehemently denied these allegations. Monday marked the beginning of a $250 million civil trial initiated by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who campaigned on a promise to ‘get Trump.’ James also brought the case against Trump’s sons and seeks not only the fine but also a ban on their business activities in New York.
At one point during the proceedings, CNN host John Berman said that Trump is “going after the judge. You heard him going after the attorney general in this case.”
He added: “And again, this is no longer a bug of the Trump campaign. This is the feature, the Trump campaign is the legal operation that he is facing right now.”
Berman then asked CNN’s legal analyst, Elie Honig, for his take.
“Yeah, for sure. And Donald Trump has put similar sentiments on his true social feed. It’s a counterintuitive strategy to openly attack the person who’s going to be rendering the verdict in this case, the judge,” Honig said.
“It seems to me Donald Trump’s strategy here is essentially damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. He understands he’s not going to kiss up to this judge. He’s not going to try to please this judge. I think he realizes he’s going to lose. As John said, he already has lost the first count, the most important count,” Honig added.
“I think he’s trying to make, A, a political appeal, B, I think his legal approach here is going to be his lawyers. They’re going to be hoping to set the stage for appeal, hoping that they can find something that was procedurally incorrect, find some sort of bias in the judge that will justify an appeal. But he’s leaning into this for sure,” Honig noted further.
“Can we just talk about what the words that he used, because he’s done this before, and every time he goes after the judge or the attorney general in saying that she’s racist, they get threats, like, this is actually dangerous for them every time he does it,” co-anchor Sara Sidner said.
“And I do think we have to call it out every time we get used to it, because he does it every single time. But there are real consequences to these statements,” Honig responded.
He went on:
They are, in my view, what we just heard is over the line. Look, you are allowed as a defendant in a criminal case or a civil case. You’re allowed to criticize the prosecutor, you’re allowed to criticize the other party. You’re allowed to criticize the judge. Again, query whether that’s a smart decision, but you can do that. But there is a line.
And when you get to the point of calling the attorney general a racist, when you get to the point of saying some of the things that I won’t repeat about this, AG about other prosecutors, about the judge, that becomes dangerous. And the question is, will either the prosecutors in any of these cases or the judges in any of these cases do anything about it? We see that starting to happen now in one of the criminal cases, the federal case in D.C., the judge is considering a gag order as we speak.
“And by the way, these statements that we’re hearing today probably aren’t going to help Donald Trump in arguing against that,” Honig concluded, a reference to special counsel Jack Smith’s repeated requests for a limited gag order to the judge overseeing Trump’s Jan. 6 case.