Trump attorney Alina Habba says she ‘can’t be fact-checked’ on ‘peanuts and Coke’ hardscrabble childhood story

Ex-president’s media-thirsty lawyer has evolved from directly representing her client to being an unofficial campaign surrogate — and her claims about her background have raised eyebrows

John Bowden
Washington DC
Tuesday 11 June 2024 18:53
Alina Habba comes up with unlikely reason Trump may have been sleeping in court: 'He reads a lot'
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Donald Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba is defending her supposedly hardscrabble background as her detractors on social media question whether she is concocting a false rags-to-riches story.

Habba appeared on Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk’s show on the right-wing channel Real America’s Voice on Monday and defended remarks she had made over the weekend at a summit held by Kirk’s group. Before hundreds of attendees at TPUSA’s Young Women's Leadership Summit, Habba claimed that her father “used to take the money that he could have and got a Coke and a pack of peanuts every day so that we could survive”.

On Monday, she told Kirk: "I know that there were comments that were just beyond comprehension, trying to break down, fact-check me. I really can't be fact-checked on my life. I'm happy to break it down further for everybody and all the nastiness.”

A fair portion of Habba’s background is public knowledge, and provides a complicated answer to the question of whether Habba has upsold the plight she and her family faced during her childhood. With a background as Chaldean Catholics from Iraq, Habba’s family arrived in the US in the 1980s, fleeing religious persecution perpetuated by Saddam Hussein’s government. Chaldean Catholics fled Iraq to the US in significant numbers throughout the 80s and into the early 1990s; more faced persecution and were uprooted from their homes during the rise of Isis in the 2010s.

But it’s also clear that Habba’s family had come upon some measure of success and financial stability by the time she was in high school. Her father, Dr Saad Habba, is a renowned gastroenterologist who can be found published in American medical journals as early as 2000, when Habba was 16. Two years later, she graduated from a prestigious New Jersey private school, The Kent Place School. Tuition at the private academy runs past $53,000 a year for high schoolers.

As Trump’s attorney, Habba has represented him through several of his legal defeats, including the civil case brought against him by writer E Jean Carroll which ended in a historic $83 million judgement against her client.

Alina Habba speaks to reporters outside of the Manhattan courtroom where Donald Trump was convicted on 34 felonies
Alina Habba speaks to reporters outside of the Manhattan courtroom where Donald Trump was convicted on 34 felonies (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

She was not directly involved in representing Trump during his recent Manhattan criminal trial on 34 felony counts related to an illegal effort to hide a hush money scheme, which prosecutors said was aimed at protecting his presidential campaign. The former president was found guilty on all 34 counts, and is due to be sentenced next month (pending an appeal, which he will file). Habba does continue to serve as an informal legal advisor to the president and did attend court with her boss as he was convicted on his criminal charges.

Despite not being a member of Trump’s political staff, she has also regularly appeared on cable news to defend her client on matters of personal dignity and appearance beyond simply serving in her role as an attorney. In one instance in mid-April, she appeared on Fox News to defend her client sleeping in the Manhattan courtroom during proceedings, even though she herself had not attended court that day.

“He’s been sitting there, as he is forced to, at the threat of going to jail if he’s not sitting there,” she said. “If anything, he’s probably brutally bored. I mean, it’s painful they make him sit there through jury selection… but no, you know, I’ve heard that report; it’s unlikely [he fell asleep], I know him; I sat through trial after trial with him. That never happens.”

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