Alina Habba may be in unusual “no-win” scenario: Legal analyst

Trump attorney Alina Habba may be in an unusual “no-win” scenario due to her involvement in two of ex-President Donald Trump’s New York cases, former federal prosecutor and elected state attorney Michael McAuliffe told Newsweek.

“Given the professional ethical obligations that apply to Habba, her multiple roles may box her into an unusual no-win scenario,” McAuliffe said on Friday. “Habba’s role as counsel to multiple individuals in Trump’s orbit shows how the Trump-related matters all seem to collide eventually. For a lawyer, it’s akin to a professional death wish.”

Newsweek on Friday reached out to Habba via email for comment.

Habba is representing Allen Weisselberg, former chief financial officer of The Trump Organization, in the New York fraud trial, where Trump is a co-defendant, as well as the former president himself in the E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit. McAuliffe said because Habba is involved in both cases, she “faces enormous professional risks.”

The possibility that Habba is posing a threat to her own legal career has been floated in the wake of the letter that she sent to New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who’s presiding over the fraud trial, on Wednesday.

Engoron had asked both sides on Tuesday to respond to the recent reports about a potential plea deal that Weisselberg is reportedly negotiating with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. The agreement is believed to involve the former Trump executive’s admission that he perjured himself by lying on the stand in the civil fraud trial brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office.

While prosecutors for James’ office said it would be “hardly surprising” if Weisselberg did perjure himself, and Clifford Robert, attorney for the Trump family, called Engoron’s request “unprecedented, inappropriate and troubling,” Habba offered a more restrained response to the court.

“In an abundance of caution, I have conferred with my ethics counsel and have been advised that I am constrained by my professional ethical obligations from providing any further detail. No adverse inference should be drawn from my inability to respond,” Habba said.

Alina Habba Boxed In
Alina Habba, attorney for ex-President Donald Trump, leaves Manhattan Federal Court on January 25 in New York City. Habba may have “boxed” herself in on a number of legal matters, former federal prosecutor Michael McAuliffe…

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Engoron had stressed to Trump’s defense team on Thursday that he would have to factor in the Weisselberg matter if the former executive “publicly confesses to having committed perjury about a significant matter in the case before me, or if he pleads guilty to such perjury at any time before I issue my final decision.”

The judge had already reminded counsel on Tuesday that attorneys would be in violation of Rule 3.3 if they chose not to take remedial action after becoming aware that their client offered false material evidence, and warned again on Wednesday that, “[I]f someone pleads guilty to committing perjury in a case over which I am presiding, I want to know about it.”

“If [Habba] was or is ethically obligated to disclose to Engoron information about her client’s testimony (potentially perjurious by his own admission), it will surely hurt Trump’s defense,” McAuliffe said. “Until now, she’s only alluded to privileged information that she’s unwilling to disclose in response to Judge Engoron’s inquiries about the issue. She may be exposing herself to contempt proceedings or professional ethics complaints, or both.”

Legal analyst Lisa Rubin agreed in a Thursday op-ed that Habba’s own words could bring the “greatest harm” to the attorney’s legal career.

Rubin said that Habba’s “carefully worded refusal to say much of anything” to Engoron’s request notably left out any acknowledgement of whether or not she had conferred with Weisselberg about the plea deal. It also did not deny that the former Trump executive lied during his testimony.

“She seems to be telling Engoron that her ethical obligations to her client preclude her from saying more,” Rubin wrote. “Or is it more complicated? Could Habba be saying that because Weisselberg’s interests now diverge from those of other clients, notably Trump’s, she is truly in a pickle?”

All parties involved in the case ultimately advised Engoron not to consider the recent reports about Weisselberg in his final decision on the fraud case, arguing that it could delay his final ruling. But Rubin said that even if the reported plea deal does not end up having an impact on Engoron’s final verdict, Habba’s response to his resquest “could be what causes the greatest harm yet to Alina Habba’s standing as a lawyer.”