Legal experts: Trump’s unhinged attack on judge in court shows he “realizes he’s going to lose”

Former President Donald Trump on Monday lashed out at the judge overseeing his trial in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud lawsuit in Manhattan. 

The former president referred to Judge Arthur Engoron as a “rogue judge” while speaking to reporters inside the courthouse, claiming the judge had undervalued his properties in a partial summary judgment handed down last week ruling that Trump had persistently committed fraud. “And he’s a disgrace to people that call themselves judges,” the ex-president told reporters. “And his clerk should not be allowed to be in his ear on every single question. You take a look at what’s happening with her. She hates Trump more than he does.”

Trump also slammed James, calling her lawsuit “a scam and a sham.”

“We have a racist attorney general who is a horror show!” Trump added. “She ran on the basis of she was going to get Trump before she even knew anything about me!”

Some legal experts characterized Trump’s courthouse meltdown as a sign that he knows his defense stands little chance of prevailing. 

“I think that Trump has already decided he’s going to lose on the law,” John Yoo, a Berkeley Law professor and former Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, told Fox News on Monday. “Last week, the judge already made all the key findings against him. So what I think President Trump has done is turn this all into a political strategy.”

“I would say it was the acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, because everything he said, whether it’s true or not, is all aimed at the political sphere,” he said. “Everything he said could only make sure that he’s going to lose. Attacking the judge for being rogue, saying the… attorney general is racist. Now, there’s no way that this judge is going to find at all in the favor of President Trump.”

“And I think on appeal, he’s going to lose because this is not the kind of case appeal judges don’t want to get involved in and reverse factual findings by the trial judge,” Yoo added. “So I think what you’re seeing here is actually throwing in the towel on the law and using it instead as a platform to amplify his political message. But that political message will tube and tank his ability to prevail at all in this legal proceeding.”

CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honing noted on Monday that it was “a counterintuitive strategy to openly attack the person who’s going to be rendering the verdict in this case, the judge.”

“It seems to me Donald Trump’s strategy here is essentially damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” he said, according to Mediaite. “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… He already has lost the first count, the most important count. 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.”

Anchor Sara Sidner underscored the use of the word “racist” in Trump’s criticism of James, observing how “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.” 

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“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 replied, adding “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,” he continued. “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,” Honing asserted. 

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