Donald Trump’s New York fraud trial has been temporarily halted after the former US president turned the heat on the judge overseeing this case by suing him directly.
The trial, stemming from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ fraud lawsuit against Trump and his family business, was scheduled to start on 2 October.
In the lawsuit, Trump, 77, accused Justice Arthur Engoron, the trial judge, of defying a June court order that could narrow the case against him.
Trump’s lawyers also raised the issue of the judge’s refusal to grant their recent request for a three-week trial delay, which he ruled as “completely without merit”.
A New York state appeals court judge granted an interim stay of the trial on Thursday, and referred the matter to a five-judge panel, which is expected to rule in the last week of September.
The non-jury trial could still begin on 2 October depending on how the appeals court rules. Judge Engoron previously said the trial could last until near Christmas.
Lawyers for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Ms James said in a statement: “We are confident in our case and will be ready for trial.”
The attorney general has said that a “mountain of evidence” shows how Trump and his associates lied over a decade about his assets and net worth, which she says may have been inflated by as much as $3.6bn (£2.9bn), to obtain better terms on loans and insurance.
She is seeking a $250m (£201.3m) fine, and to bar Trump and his sons Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump from leading the family business, the Trump Organisation.
Ms James filed her lawsuit in September 2022, after a three-year probe.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, and called Ms James’ case part of a Democratic “witch hunt”.
In sworn testimony given for the lawsuit in April, Trump said he didn’t think his financial statements would be taken seriously because they have a disclaimer that says they shouldn’t be trusted.
He told Ms James, a Democrat: “You don’t have a case and you should drop this case.”
“Do you know the banks were fully paid? Do you know the banks made a lot of money?” Trump testified.
“Do you know I don’t believe I ever got even a default notice, and even during COVID, the banks were all paid? And yet you’re suing on behalf of banks, I guess. It’s crazy. The whole case is crazy.”
Trump, who holds a dominant lead in the 2024 race for the Republican presidential nomination, faces multiple cases across several states in the run-up to next year’s election.
The lawsuit is Trump’s latest attack on judges presiding over his many legal issues.
On Monday, Trump’s lawyers asked the federal judge presiding over his election subversion case in Washington to recuse herself, saying US District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s past public statements about him and his connection to the January 6 riot at the US Capitol call into question whether she can be fair.
That request is pending.
Before that, Trump also sought to remove the judge in his Manhattan hush-money criminal case.
Trump’s lawyers argued Judge Juan Manuel Merchan is biased because he’s given money to Democrats and his daughter is a party consultant, but Judge Merchan last month rejected their request to recuse himself, saying he is certain of his “ability to be fair and impartial”.
Trump has shown enmity for Judge Engoron in the past, lashing out at him on social media as “vicious, biased, and mean” after a series of unfavourable rulings, including a contempt order that cost Trump $110,000 (£89,000) for not turning over evidence to Mr James’ office in a timely fashion.