Jan 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

“I won’t debate this yet again”: Judge spars with Trump lawyer over closing argument

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks to guests during a rally at Clinton Middle School on January 06, 2024 in Clinton, Iowa.

Former President Trump speaks to guests during a rally at Clinton Middle School on Jan. 6 in Clinton, Iowa. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Lawyers for former President Trump and the New York judge overseeing his civil fraud trial got into a heated exchange this week over the former president's request to speak at his closing arguments, new emails show.

The big picture: Lawyers for Trump last week wrote that the former president "plans to present argument at closing," prompting a lengthy and at times tense back and forth between the two parties.

Driving the news: New York Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the trial, agreed to let Trump speak at Thursday's closing arguments if he agreed to certain conditions.

  • "He may not "testify." He may not comment on irrelevant matters," Engoron wrote in an email dated Jan. 5.
  • "In particular, and without limitation, he may not deliver a campaign speech, and he may not impugn myself, my staff, plaintiff, plaintiff's staff, or the New York State Court System."

What they're saying: Christopher Kise, a lawyer for Trump, responded on Tuesday that the former president "cannot agree ... to the proposed preconditions and prior restraints," drawing an immediate response from Engoron.

  • "Your and your client's rejection of the reasonable, normal limits I am imposing on any argument by Mr. Trump, ... completely justifies the need to impose them," the judge wrote in response.

Context: Engoron agreed to extend the deadline for the former president's team to respond, after they said they did not see the first deadline.

  • "This is very unfair, your Honor. You are not allowing President Trump, who has been wrongfully demeaned and belittled by an out of control, politically motivated Attorney General, to speak about the things that must be spoken about," Kise wrote.
  • "I won't debate this yet again. Take it or leave it. Now or never. You have until noon, seven minutes from now," Engoron wrote.

The former president's team did not respond to Engoron's request by noon on Wednesday, according to the email correspondence, which were posted to the court's public docket.

Go deeper: Trump's courtroom and campaign calendar collision is here

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