Meet Alina Habba, the New Jersey parking storage lawyer now dealing with Donald Trump’s most private lawsuits

Former President Donald Trump at a rally in January.Brandon Bell/Getty Photographs

  • Former President Donald Trump employed a low-profile lawyer to signify a few of his most private circumstances.

  • Alina Habba is defending him in sexual assault circumstances and suing the NY AG main the Trump Org. probe.

  • Specialists say Habba hitching herself to Trump carries nice reputational dangers.

On Thursday, Donald Trump had an vital courtroom listening to. New York Lawyer Normal Letitia James subpoenaed the previous president for her civil investigation of the Trump Group’s funds. Trump did not wish to sit for a deposition and requested his legal professionals to combat it.

New York State Supreme Court docket Decide Arthur Engoron introduced all of the events collectively in a Zoom convention to listen to everybody’s positions. In his nook, Trump had somebody who was removed from the nationwide radar: a 36-year-old lawyer named Alina Habba.

At occasions, Habba handled the courtroom listening to like a Fox Information look, inquiring why the New York state Lawyer Normal’s workplace wouldn’t examine Hillary Clinton as a substitute of Trump. Engoron’s regulation clerk advised her a number of occasions to cease interrupting him.

In the long run, Engoron ordered Trump, Donald Trump Jr, and Ivanka Trump to sit down for depositions inside 21 days. Habba’s arguments did not work.

Since first hiring Habba in September, Trump has sicced her on his most private courtroom circumstances, ones just like the preliminary showdown she simply misplaced. Along with defending her towards two sexual assault lawsuits, she additionally filed a lawsuit towards the New York Occasions and the ex-president’s niece, Mary Trump, over leaking his tax paperwork.

She’s additionally dealing with Trump’s most audacious lawsuit but: an try to cease Tish’s investigation outright.

That case is an extended shot, consultants advised Insider. It additionally comes with the satan’s cut price job of being Trump’s newest go-to lawyer, a place that has led a few of her predecessors into conditions that may very well be virtually unattainable to navigate ethically. Take into account, for instance, when Trump tried with out success to get his Don McGahn to fireside Robert Mueller and the White Home counsel then ended up changing into a star witness within the particular counsel’s remaining report.

“The simplest technique to get a excessive profile is to signify Donald Trump,” mentioned Randy Zelin, a New York-based legal legal professional and Cornell Legislation Faculty professor. “Now, is it price it?”

Take it from somebody who is aware of. For years, Michael Cohen served as an govt for the Trump Group and private legal professional for Trump, appearing as his go-to fixer for authorized issues. In 2016, his work on behalf of Trump — paying a hush-money cost to Stormy Daniels — led to a legal conviction and disbarment.

“For Donald, the one choice is victory at any value,” Cohen advised Insider. “This even contains having counsel act in methods detrimental to their popularity and profession.”

“If she falls down the rubbish chute I did,” he mentioned. “I predict a really unhealthy ending.”

Habba didn’t reply to requests for remark for this story.

Habba represented one other businessman suing media firms earlier than Trump employed her

Habba attended Widener College Commonwealth Legislation Faculty in Delaware between 2007 and 2011 in line with her LinkedIn profile. McGahn, the previous Trump White Home counsel, graduated from the identical regulation college within the Nineties, as did former affiliate White Home counsel Jim Schultz. Then-Sen. Joe Biden additionally taught on the establishment’s sister regulation college, Widener College Delaware Legislation Faculty, from 1991 till 2008, overlapping with Habba’s attendance.

After graduating from regulation college, in line with her LinkedIn profile, Habba spent a number of years at small regulation companies earlier than founding her personal, Habba Madaio & Associates LLP, in 2020. Along with her companion Michael Madaio, the agency focuses totally on serving to companies with miscellaneous authorized points. She had additionally, at one level, been the overall counsel of a parking storage firm, in line with the Washington Put up.

Earlier than representing Trump, Habba’s greatest brush with fame was in July, representing “Actual Housewives of New Jersey” star Siggy Flicker. Flicker claimed she was banned from Fb after wishing Melania Trump a contented birthday. Habba wrote a letter to Fb on her behalf, which the social media firm appeared to disregard. Habba by no means truly filed a lawsuit over the scuffle, and it pale away.

Alina Habba Marc Jacobs

Alina Habba, left, at a Marc Jacobs vacation occasion at Gotham Corridor on December 13, 2006 in New York Metropolis. Habba labored within the trend firm’s merchandising division on the time, in line with her LinkedIn.Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan through Getty Photographs

Court docket information present that Habba has been concerned in a handful of dramatic circumstances. Among the many highlights is a category motion lawsuit representing a number of college students on the College of Bridgeport, in Connecticut. The scholars, in line with the lawsuit, had been charged hundreds of {dollars} in charges for on-campus providers at the same time as lessons had been held on-line due to the coronavirus pandemic. In one other case, she’s representing a New Jersey man who sued a nursing residence, alleging it did not correctly take care of his uncle as COVID-19 circumstances surged. Each circumstances stay pending.

In July, Habba filed a lawsuit in federal courtroom in New Jersey on behalf of Caesar DePaco, a Portuguese businessman who runs a vitamin complement firm with a “skinny blue line” flag on its web site, towards Cofina, a Portuguese media group.

The lawsuit says {a magazine} that Cofina owned defamed DePaco when it revealed a narrative alleging he’s the “foremost financier” of Chega, a far-right political occasion within the nation, and “engages in legal exercise and unlawful types of intimidation to gather money owed” — all of which DePaco denies. Cofina moved to dismiss the lawsuit, telling the decide that DePaco did not have the jurisdiction to sue the corporate as a result of it’s based mostly in Portugal and never New Jersey.

Regardless of Trump’s frequent complaints about “faux information,” he has sued media firms solely thrice throughout his presidency. In all of these circumstances, he was represented by Charles Tougher, the defamation legal professional well-known for taking down Gawker in 2016.

In September, Habba filed her first lawsuit on behalf of Trump. In New York state courtroom, she sued the New York Occasions and Mary Trump, his niece, who had leaked packing containers of his tax paperwork to the publication. The lawsuit alleged Mary Trump violated a confidentiality settlement she signed in 2001 when she handed over these tax paperwork and claimed Occasions journalists “aided and abetted” that violation.

“The defendants engaged in an insidious plot to acquire confidential and highly-sensitive information which they exploited for their very own profit and utilized as a method of falsely legitimizing their publicized works,” Habba wrote within the lawsuit.

Mary Trump, filed a movement to dismiss the lawsuit in December, claiming the 2001 settlement was designed to swindle her out of cash that was rightfully hers (she filed a separate lawsuit towards Donald Trump in 2020).

Habba helped wrap up certainly one of Trump’s longest-standing authorized issues

It is not clear how Habba and Trump first met.

She has by no means donated to him or another politicians, in line with a search of Federal Elections Fee information.

Her agency, nonetheless, relies simply an eight-minute drive from the Trump Nationwide Golf Membership in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump lived on the personal membership in the summertime of 2021 and sometimes golfed there throughout his presidency. Based on Axios, Habba “acquired to know” Trump by visiting the membership.

Habba publicly staked her declare in Trump’s authorized world on September 3. Court docket information present that, on that day, she swapped in for legal professional Marc Kasowitz in a case filed by Summer time Zervos. Kasowitz has been certainly one of Trump’s longest-serving legal professionals, dealing with private points for him since earlier than his presidency and dealing on politically charged circumstances for him in 2017.

Zervos, in 2017, filed a defamation lawsuit towards the then-president in New York state courtroom, claiming he sexually assaulted her twice after which defamed her when he known as her a liar.

In this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo, Summer Zervos leaves Manhattan Supreme Court at the conclusion of a hearing in New York.

Summer time Zervos leaves Manhattan Supreme Court docket on the conclusion of a listening to in 2017.AP Picture/Kathy Willens, File

Habba, in a listening to a month after she joined the case, was aggressive. She reiterated Trump’s arguments that the case had no advantage, and threatened to file an anti-SLAPP movement, which might permit him to probably recoup authorized prices if he gained the case.

Michael Rand, a regulation clerk overseeing the listening to, was unimpressed. He mentioned that each Trump and Zervos wanted to sit down for depositions by Christmas.

Simply weeks later, on November 12, Zervos dropped the case. The courtroom submitting says that every occasion would “bear his or her personal prices.” Zervos’s attorneys mentioned she “accepted no compensation” and “stands by the allegations in her criticism.”

Whereas Zervos was nonetheless free to proceed publicly calling the previous president a rapist, Habba nonetheless succeeded in cleansing up a authorized headache. Her success might have given Trump a motive to assign her to a different case: E. Jean Carroll.

In 2019, the columnist publicly accused him of sexually assaulting her within the mid-Nineties. Like Zervos, she sued him in September of 2020, after he known as her a liar and insulted her look.

Habba joined on November 22, additionally changing Kasowitz. She as soon as once more went on the offense. In a prolonged counterclaim filed on January 11, she mentioned Carroll lied about Trump to be able to enhance gross sales for her e book launched in 2019.

She additionally threatened to sue the Pulitzer Board for prizes it did not award

In November, Habba threatened to file a lawsuit towards the Pulitzer Prize Board. She demanded it retract the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Nationwide Reporting given to the Washington Put up and New York Occasions for his or her tales about Russia’s interference within the 2016 election and the way Trump fired FBI director James Comey.

The letter to the board got here after Particular Counsel John Durham accused Igor Danchenko, a Russian nationwide, of mendacity when he supplied data for what later turned referred to as the Steele File. The doc performed a task in a wiretap software for a international coverage advisor for Trump’s 2016 marketing campaign who had ties to Russia as half of a bigger FBI investigation into Russia’s election interference.

The New York Occasions did not appropriate any of its tales within the wake of the admission, and there is no proof any of its tales relied solely on Danchenko’s claims. Habba’s letter doesn’t determine any such tales.

christopher steele

Former UK intelligence officer Christopher Steele arrives on the Excessive Court docket in London on July 24, 2020, to attend his defamation trial introduced by Russian tech entrepreneur Alexej Gubarev.TOLGA AKMEN/AFP through Getty Photographs

The Washington Put up corrected two tales following Durham’s indictment. Neither of them are among the many articles that had been awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Habba’s letter additionally refers to complaints about CNN’s protection of the Steele File, which was not even a finalist for the prize.

Bud Kliment, the administrator of the prizes, advised Insider that the Pulitzer Board has a “standing course of for reviewing questions on previous awards.” He didn’t reply to extra questions on whether or not Habba or one other consultant for Trump had triggered the method.

Habba has not but filed a lawsuit towards the Pulitzer Board. Zelin advised Insider that having “one consumer,” as Habba does with Trump, can put an legal professional in conditions that threat their credibility.

“Your popularity, and because the outdated saying goes — it takes a lifetime to construct a popularity in about 10 seconds to destroy it,” Zelin mentioned.

Her greatest gamble but is a problem to New York Lawyer Normal Letitia James

To cease New York Lawyer Normal Letitia James’s subpoena of Trump, Habba filed a lawsuit in federal courtroom on December 20 asking for an injunction that will freeze the investigation solely. She argued the investigation was an abuse of energy, since James, as a candidate for legal professional basic and governor, had bragged about suing Trump.

Habba additionally took her argument to right-wing media. In an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox Information in January, she mentioned James was operating a “fishing expedition” and that actual property valuations are “extremely subjective.”

With Engoron’s ruling on Thursday that Trump needed to adjust to the subpoena by mid-March, it is unlikely the federal decide in Habba’s case will subject a ruling in time. And Zelin mentioned it had little advantage within the first place.

“What Trump desires us to do is he desires us to speak about every part else however the 800-pound gorilla within the room,” Zelin mentioned. “Which is, did you lie concerning the worth of properties? Did you deceive lenders? Did you deceive insurance coverage firms? Did you deceive the IRS?”

letitia james

New York State Lawyer Normal Letitia James.Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket through Getty Photographs

If Habba selected to work for Trump to be able to advance her popularity, Zelin mentioned, then she is enjoying a harmful recreation.

She could possibly command larger charges sooner or later, he mentioned. However whereas massive authorized names like Kasowitz, Tougher, and Rudy Giuliani have established monitor information, Habba runs the chance of creating it unattainable to disconnect from the previous president.

“You change into radioactive. You change into typecast,” he mentioned. “You simply can by no means play another position.”

One lawyer who confronted off towards Habba in a now-completed case, and who spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved to debate it, mentioned they discovered Habba to be “completely competent.” However having a consumer like Trump presents dangers, the lawyer mentioned.

“Within the authorized occupation, your popularity is every part, your credibility is every part,” the lawyer mentioned. “However when you go down the trail of being so linked with one particular person, who might not need you to uphold these requirements, you may find yourself in actually troublesome spots.”

The worst-case situation could also be if, someday, Habba has to face as much as Trump.

Whether or not it is Michael Cohen, former Lawyer Normal Jeff Periods, Senate Minority Chief Mitch McConnell, or former Vice President Michael Pence, Trump has sought to damage the reputations of people that refused to do his bidding.

“Hitching your wagon to Donald J. Trump will not be a sensible transfer for a younger and aspiring legal professional,” Cohen mentioned. “Sadly for Ms. Habba, the issues to which she is representing Donald on have extremely expert counsel that she might want to wrangle with.”

“I do not see her reaching success in these issues,” he added.

Learn the unique article on Enterprise Insider

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