Trump’s fraud trial began week four on Tuesday after skipping Monday due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
An unmasked Trump watched as his lawyers asked the trial be halted due to the risk of infection.
The judge declined, saying N95 masks were available in the courtroom to anyone who wanted one.
Donald Trump’s attorneys on Tuesday demanded that the former president’s New York civil fraud trial be halted immediately due to a COVID-19 risk that could affect the former president himself as he sat in the courtroom.
An unmasked Trump watched as his unmasked lawyers asked the trial be delayed due to the risk of infection, but the judge overseeing the high-profile Manhattan trial quickly shot down that request.
He reminded the parties that if anyone was concerned, N95 masks were available. But for all the hubbub over the “risk,” there were no takers, Trump included.
The lead defense lawyer, Christopher Kise, raised the COVID-19 issue before any witnesses took the stand on Tuesday, kicking off the fourth week in the fraud trial, at which New York officials are seeking to ban Trump’s real estate empire from the state.
Kise kicked off the COVID kerfuffle, rising from his seat to complain that someone on New York Attorney General Letitia James’ team had contracted COVID-19 on Wednesday and that a total of four members of her office had tested positive for the virus. At least two key members of the AG’s team, including Kevin Wallace, were not present in court Tuesday morning.
Yet Kise said Trump’s team was only alerted to the positive tests over the weekend.
Kise said there were dozens of court staff and attorneys in the room, as well as “literally hundreds of media.”
“These individuals are entitled to know this so that we can take appropriate precautions,” Kise said.
Kise accused the AG’s office, who brought the $250 million fraud lawsuit against Trump, of instead forging ahead because “nothing else matters besides pursuing President Trump.”
Tensions were high. Kise and the fellow Trump lawyer Alina Habba at one point demanded that a second hand-held microphone be brought in for the defense to use in cross-examining witnesses so they wouldn’t have to use the microphone being used by the AG’s office.
At another point during the morning testimony, Assistant Attorney General Louis Solomon asked why Kise was “concerned” about a particular line of questioning.
“Everything in this courtroom concerns me, including your health,” Kise shot back at Solomon, his voice sarcastic.
“Well,” Solomon responded, half-rising from his seat to get in the last, also sarcastic, word, “thanks for your concern.”
The AG’s office is, meanwhile, insisting that all notification and quarantine rules have been followed.
New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron decided to move ahead with Tuesday’s proceedings after hearing arguments from both sides and noting the availability of masks.
A spokesperson for the AG’s office told reporters in a statement, “As always, the Attorney General’s Office has followed and complied with CDC guidelines. Our office properly notified the court and defendants’ counsel, and the court decided to proceed with trial today. If there were any concerns, defendants’ counsel could wear masks today or at any point, but they have opted not to.”
This story was updated to include additional developments from the courtroom.
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