Trump Golf Club Settlement Hangs Alina Habba Out to Dry

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
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Donald Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, paid $82,500 last week to settle a lawsuit alleging that it had silenced a sexually harassed waitress by tricking her into an unfair hush money deal, according to the ex-employee’s lawyer.

But the curiously worded contract left the former president’s own attorney Alina Habba—a rising star in his orbit—wide open to getting sued herself.

Trump and his top advisers are already a magnet for legal trouble. Habba, who already settled a discrimination lawsuit by her former legal secretary, is no exception. But now she faces the wrath of Alice Bianco, who was once a waitress at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, the real estate tycoon’s summertime abode.

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Bianco feels betrayed by Habba, who was one of her Bedminster regulars until, her lawsuit says, Habba posed as a concerned friend giving legal advice about how to address alleged sexual harassment by a supervisor—only to abuse that relationship and “fraudulently inducing” her to “quickly agree to unconscionable and illegal terms.”

The alleged ploy, rapidly paced over just two weeks, gave Habba leverage to arrange a hush money deal that would curry favor with the former president and earn her way into his inner circle.

Within a month of working on the August 2021 hush money deal, Habba quickly became Trump’s leading lawyer defending him from a sexual assault defamation case by former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos—replacing Trump’s nationally renowned attorney on the case. That case was later dropped.

The scandal concerning the toxic non-disclosure agreement at Bedminster threatens to expose what appears to be the strange origin story of a little-understood, up-and-coming lawyer who suddenly became a legal adviser to the former and possibly future president—just as he faces four criminal indictments and cases that seek to empty his considerable bank accounts.

Bianco is now preparing to sue the club all over again, this time for sexual harassment. But she’s also targeting Habba with a potential fraud lawsuit too, according to Bianco’s New Jersey lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith.

The four-page settlement, which Bianco signed on March 4, reads like a total win for the angered ex-employee. She gets to keep the measly $15,000 hush money payment she received in 2021 for keeping quiet about the way a supervisor repeatedly intimidated her and pressured her to sleep with him. Her attorney gets $82,500 for briefly litigating the case. Both sides can rip up the one-sided NDA. And the club doesn’t admit it “committed fraud to induce” her into a shady deal.

But then comes this line out of nowhere: “The parties agree that Alina Habba is not a party to this release.” That means Habba was specifically cut out of the deal, allowing Bianco to sue her directly for the exact same issues.

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Bianco’s lawyer said the line was included to make sure Habba isn’t off the hook.

“My client is certainly considering suing her for fraud,” Smith said last week, noting that she is already in communication with Habba’s attorney.

Habba’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, nor did Habba.

The news is sure to fuel what’s become a popular online meme, one that claims MAGA stands for Make America Great Again as much as its comical alternative: Make Attorneys Get Attorneys.

Rudy Giuliani has lost his bar license in two jurisdictions for peddling Trump’s fake election fraud claims. M. Evan Corcoran had to bow out from defending Trump for hoarding classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after a judge handed over his notes to federal prosecutors. Political adviser Boris Epshteyn appears to be named as a co-conspirator in the Fulton County District Attorney’s case against Trump for election interference.

Now, Habba faces potential consequences—to her professional credentials and her own bank accounts—for organizing a tiny settlement that’s just been ripped up.

“We got everything we asked for. We asked to void the agreement, that she not pay back. I didn’t want her to pay me a dime. So we got that. And she still has the right to sue Alina Habba for fraud. And she has the right to sue the club for sexual harassment,” Smith said.

In her now-resolved lawsuit against the club, Bianco pointed to the way Habba rapidly earned her trust to allegedly put herself in a position where she could prey on the unsuspecting 21-year-old woman. At the time, the young waitress had just hired a lawyer to help navigate the increasingly perilous situation at work, where a manager was trying to pressure her into sex.

Text messages included as evidence in the lawsuit show how Habba began texting her midday on July 28, 2021, with “Hi love! It’s Alina I wanted to check on u.” Within hours, Habba started throwing shade at Bianco’s lawyer and telling her to “be careful” with “this guy.” Days later, they met several times at her office just down the street and in her car to review a quickly drafted non-disclosure agreement.

Bianco’s lawsuit claims that when they met inside Habba’s car, the lawyer tried to temper Bianco’s expectations by telling her, “You don’t want to go public with this, I’ve been raped, I can help you, I can protect you.”

That NDA ended up being a one-sided deal that would give Bianco $15,000, but only on the condition that she never mention it to anyone—even another lawyer for review—lest she lose it all and owe $1,000 a day as punishment for speaking up. It was a paltry sum, particularly for a deal that spared Trump from embarrassment at a time when he was freshly on the job as president.

But when April rolled around eight months later and Bianco discovered she’d have to pay income taxes that would vastly reduce that already tiny settlement, text messages show how the lawyer pulled off an epic disappearing act.

“Again I am so grateful for everything you’ve helped me with already,” Bianco wrote. “I feel so bad bothering you at the recital so you can deal with this tomorrow when you have the chance.”

“I can’t technically give u legal advice,” Habba shot back. “That’s the problem.”

Habba directed her to Trump’s corporate office for payroll issues. A week later, Bianco pleaded with her for a quick FaceTime video call.

“I really cant give legal advice,” Habba replied.

What Habba didn’t say was that by April 2022, she was already representing Trump against his cousin Mary Trump and The New York Times for its journalists’ award-winning probe into his taxes, anti-MAGA protesters who got beat up by his corporate security goons outside Trump Tower, and the New York Attorney General investigating him for bank fraud.

Bianco’s lawsuit against the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster played out quickly in court, lasting just three months, from late November 2023 until early March this year. In court papers, Bianco said the club tricked her “by using Habba as its Trojan Horse agent.”

From the start of the case, Trump Bedminster immediately distanced itself from Habba. Defense lawyer Jennifer L. Ward cast the lawsuit as a series of “attempts to hold the club accountable for Ms. Habba’s representations.” It pushed back on the notion that there was an “employee relationship between Ms. Habba and the club.”

“Ms. Habba was merely ‘a member of the club,’” Ward wrote.

Ward also deemed it “a huge, perverse leap” to think that Habba must have betrayed Bianco by secretly working on behalf of the club because of her friendship with the former president.

And yet, as Bianco’s lawyer pointed out in court documents, Habba was in the know.

“How did Habba know [the club] would pay $15,000 to [Bianco] if she was not acting on [the club’s] behalf? The fact that Habba delivered a check from [the club] in the amount she suggested is a clear manifestation of the authority given to her,” Smith countered later.

The club played down Bianco’s fears about retaliation for speaking out as hypothetical and even tried to drag the lawsuit into arbitration—private courts that are generally business-friendly venues—yet it was still willing to cut out the portion of the NDA that would punish the woman for speaking out. But it refused to tear up the NDA without demanding that Bianco also hand over the $15,000 hush money.

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The club quickly reversed itself last month, striking a settlement on the same day its lawyers were set to argue the matter in court.

Habba has already earned a singular reputation as Trump’s made-for-TV lawyer in court, drawing the ire of colleagues on the former president’s expansive legal team who question her juridical acumen, according to half a dozen people who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.

In Florida, one federal judge held Habba personally responsible for a “frivolous” Trump revenge lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and sanctioned them $937,989 together. In New York, another federal judge barked at her when she brought the same attack dog antics she displays on Newsmax into his courtroom.

But by aggressively defending her client, Habba has absorbed some of her client’s liability. With only weeks to go before the potential start of Trump’s very first criminal trial—involving, ironically, yet another hush money payment—Habba is now under a microscope for standing by while her other Trumpworld client committed perjury. She faces potential bar complaints in New York for allowing Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer, to lie in court and in two depositions without correcting the record.

But she now faces a potential bar complaint in New Jersey too, this from a scorned waitress who considered her a friend.

“She has her voice back, which is why she came to me. She was illegally silenced and now she can speak whenever she wants,” Smith said.

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