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Trump lawyer Alina Habba backtracks on incendiary claim against E Jean Carroll attorney

Alina Habba, the attorney for Donald Trump who recently defended him in the E Jean Carroll defamation trial, walked back her claim that Ms Carroll’s attorney had a “mentor type relationship” with the judge who oversaw the trial after being threatened with sanctions.

Three days after a jury in New York awarded Ms Carroll $83.3 million in damages, Ms Habba filed a letter to Judge Lewis Kaplan inquiring about his relationship with Roberta Kaplan, one of Ms Carroll’s attorney. Ms Habba cited a New York Post “exclusive” that said Judge Kaplan and Ms Kaplan worked together in the 1990s and had a “mentor” relationship.

Ms Habba accused Judge Kaplan of displaying “preferential treatment” toward Ms Kaplan and her associates and asked the court to provide more information on the “troubling matter.”

Throughout the defamation trial, Judge Kaplan grew frustrated with Mr Trump’s counsel’s blunders, miscommunications and requests. At times he instructed Ms Habba to sit down, stop talking and respect his ruling.

Alina Habba (AP)
Alina Habba (AP)

But just two days later, Ms Habba was forced to backtrack her informal complaint after Ms Kaplan responded to the conflict of interest accusation by denying having a “mentor” relationship and threatening to seek sanctions under a rule that prohibits filing something that does not contain contentions with evidentiary support.

Ms Kaplan clarified that she worked at the same large law firm where Judge Kaplan was a senior litigator but their careers crossed over for less than two years. Additionally, Ms Kaplan said did not know Judge Kaplan well during that time.

“While Ms Habba ends her letter by characterizing this as a “troubling matter”... what is actually troubling is both the substance and timing of her false accusations of impropriety by on the part of E Jean Carroll’s counsel or the Court,” Ms Kaplan wrote.

Mr Trump’s attorney responded quickly, saying the only purpose of her initial letter was to seek more information on the judge and Ms Kaplan’s relationship and declared the issue “seemingly resolved” after Ms Kaplan’s clarification.

Judge Kaplan has not responded to either letter and it is unclear if he will. A court official told NBC News, the judge had no comment on it.