Controversial Trump attorney Alina Habba is facing intense scrutiny and ethical questions over her curious response to serious perjury allegations made against Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. With Habba previously defending Weisselberg in criminal proceedings while currently representing Donald Trump in his financial fraud case, her failure to address the perjury claims properly has put her career at risk of penalty by the judge himself.

Judge Demands Explanation on Weisselberg Perjury Claims

Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over Trump’s financial fraud trial in New York, demanded clear answers from Trump’s sizable legal team following a New York Times report that Weisselberg is strongly suspected of committing perjury. Weisselberg had previously pleaded guilty to a staggering 15 felony counts including grand larceny, falsifying business records, conspiracy, and criminal tax fraud.

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Given that Habba currently represents Trump but had also defended Weisselberg in his criminal tax case, her duty to both clients has now rightly come under intense examination after she submitted a carefully-worded letter to the judge that somehow raised even more eyebrows.

Haba’s Letter Sets Off Alarm Bells on Ethics Rules

In her brief response to Judge Engoron’s demand for clarification, Habba notably did not deny having spoken directly to Allen Weisselberg and his defense lawyers about his plea deal negotiations and the perjury allegations. Additionally, she failed to deny that Weisselberg has provided or suborned false testimony under oath.

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This conspicuously vague response has rightly set off ethical alarm bells and opened urgent questions surrounding whether attorney Habba may have knowingly violated clear ethics rules requiring full candor and honesty to the court, not deception through intentional omissions.

Attorney Conduct Rules Require Duty of Court Candor

In referring ambiguously to unnamed “professional obligations” preventing her from providing full details on Weisselberg’s plea deal and subsequent perjury accusations, Habba failed to specify which exact duties are limiting her ability or willingness to be transparent and fully forthright to the court. The attorney conduct rules explicitly require maintaining complete candor with the court.

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Judge Engoron doubled down on Habba’s ethical requirements under Rule 3.3 in his blistering emailed response, sternly affirming her black-and-white duties of court candor as an officer of the court. This suggests Habba may violate ethics rules through her resistance to revealing potentially relevant information.

Engoron Issues Stark Warning on Weisselberg Perjury

After Habba’s questionable response, Judge Engoron issued an unambiguous warning that if any person pleads guilty to perjury in his courtroom, he demands to know about it fully and transparently. This severe admonishment suggests Habba’s continuing omissions regarding Weisselberg’s alleged lies under oath could open her up to court sanctions.

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The context is that Judge Engoron is still deciding on imposing punishing financial penalties in the hundreds of millions against Trump himself in the civil financial fraud lawsuit brought by NY Attorney General Letitia James. Habba’s fate now seems tied to finally revealing everything she may know surrounding Weisselberg’s plea deal and repeated perjury.

Fallout May Extend Far Beyond Trump Case

Habba is already a controversial legal figure for her overtly political approach and connections with Trump. Now serious questions about her conduct have brought intense scrutiny from the very judge overseeing the biggest case of her career thus far with the most powerful client imaginable.

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore

If Judge Engoron ultimately determines that Habba has violated her ethical duties and rules of court candor, he could opt to refer her to New York Bar authorities for investigation and potential serious discipline. Those potential impacts could stretch far beyond just Trump’s financial fraud penalties.

Habba Must Balance Competing Interests

Legal experts argue Habba is now in an untenable lose-lose situation trying unsuccessfully to balance conflicting duties to two separate clients with clearly competing legal interests. The prudent move would have been handing off Weisselberg’s criminal matters entirely when she agreed to take on representing Trump in his civil case.

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Instead, her clumsy inaction and resistance to transparency with the court has now opened Habba up to potential serious penalization by Judge Engoron including financial penalties or court sanctions, on top of scrutiny from legal oversight bodies governing her law license and career.

Case Highlights Difficulties Juggling Clients

The complicated perjury allegations now shining an intense spotlight on attorney Habba highlight the near-impossible difficulties lawyers face when trying to ethically and fully represent competing interests between two different clients simultaneously, as Habba ambitiously attempted to do.

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In hindsight, the prudent move would likely have been referring Weisselberg’s criminal proceedings to another qualified lawyer upon agreeing to take on Trump and his sprawling financial fraud case. Instead, Habba now faces the legal heat directly from the judge himself in the most important case of her career.

Trump Legal Team Faces Growing Instability

The growing questions around Habba and her conduct have emerged against the backdrop of frequent embarrassing turnover and instability inside Trump’s sizeable legal team, cobbled together to try and defend simultaneous challenges on multiple legal fronts beyond just financial fraud allegations. His rotating cabinet of lawyers has earned mocking comparisons to both a clown car and a three-ring circus.

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Now Habba, the relative upstart who was trying to make a name for herself on a global stage, may have severely jeopardized her ambitious career through increasingly obvious ethics missteps underscoring her inadequate experience and poor judgment.

Past Clients Could Still Implicate Trump

Legally and financially, both Weisselberg and the sprawling Trump Organization have significant overlapping legal exposure with Trump himself. So despite attorney Habba attempting to publicly distance herself from Weisselberg’s criminal tax proceedings, intimate links connecting the parties and allegations remain regardless.

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If Weisselberg did intentionally lie repeatedly under oath to protect or benefit Trump, he still poses inherent credibility risks for Trump as a documented potential co-conspirator in financial crimes. This makes Habba’s stubborn resistance to transparency raise even more suspicions.

Judge Shows Relentless Pursuit of Justice

Throughout his distinguished career on the bench, Justice Engoron has proven himself as an unwavering pursuer of truth and justice no matter who stands on the other side of the scales – even famously powerful public figures like Trump himself. In aggressively demanding full answers on the Weisselberg perjury situation, Engoron once again shows he always takes such allegations very seriously on principle.

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With hundreds of millions in penalties potentially awaiting Trump in his landmark civil financial fraud trial, Engoron seems highly unlikely to back down or waver from attorney Habba anytime soon. His impending actions surrounding her alleged ethical lapses could help determine her professional fate.