Alina Habba's Transformation Is A Staggering Sight To See

For all of the accusations lobbed at former president Donald Trump of misconduct against women, some high-profile ones have been among his best-known torchbearers. One of the more recent entries in Trump's parade of acolytes is lawyer Alina Habba, who has become a public figure in her own right.

Joining a legion of supporters that have included former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Ms. Alternative Facts herself, Kellyanne Conway, Habba was already an attorney when she had a chance encounter with Trump, who has been in need of much legal help. This 2019 meeting turned into a windfall for Habba, who has acknowledged that her good looks have helped advance her image and career in the media. "I don't think I would be on TV or sitting here if I didn't look the way I look," she said on the PBD Podcast. Habba clarified that she was not hired by Trump solely for this reason, as she was already a successful lawyer in her own right, explaining, "I think I caught attention."

But even Habba's relatively brief time in the national spotlight has been fraught, with Trump's legal troubles and losses being well-publicized. But long before she was linked to the former president, Habba had evolved from being the child of Iraq immigrants to a bright college and law school student to the owner of her own firm.

Alina Habba grew up in New Jersey with immigrant parents

It's safe to say that while Alina Habba's upbringing in Summit, New Jersey wasn't as opulent as her famous millionaire boss, she did hail from a rather well-to-do family. Her father, Saad F. Habba, is well-known in the medical field as a gastroenterologist whose research and development of the Habba Syndrome theory helped practitioners gain further understanding of certain bowel disorders.

But underscoring her family's comfortable lifestyle was a tumultuous past that saw Alina's devoutly Chaldean Catholic parents leave their home country of Iraq to avoid religious persecution after Saddam Hussein came to power in the early 1980s. Their three children, including Alina, were born in New Jersey shortly after they emigrated to the United States.

"My parents are 100% Iraqi-born Baghdad, Iraq, and, you know, they're The American Dream," she explained on the PBD Podcast. "[They] came over here and my father's a physician, but I am a Catholic Arab. I am one of the very few left in the world. I am Roman Catholic, my parents are from Baghdad, and if you speak Arabic to me, I'll understand you, but I'll answer you in English because I'm very shy."

Habba first pursued a career in fashion

Growing up in a financially comfortable household in New Jersey meant that as a child, Alina Habba likely had many different options to ponder when it came to her future. Habba attended the New Jersey all-girls college-prep institution, Kent Place School, where she later recounted to Bloomberg that the idea of becoming a lawyer initially drew her attention when a female attorney held a career discussion at her school.

"She was doing such interesting work. I just said, 'Oh my god, I want to be like her,'" she recalled of the "beautiful, young, vibrant entertainment litigator." Habba seemed to be heading in that direction after graduating from Kent Place in 2002. Going on to enroll at Lehigh University, she took political science courses, claiming she graduated one year early.

After she received her bachelor's degree in 2005, she inexplicably took a detour into the fashion industry, landing a gig producing and marketing accessories for high-profile designer Marc Jacobs. But after two years, despite her passion for the apparel business, she realized she would be further ahead in the legal field. "I decided I wanted to be able to actually afford the bags we made so I decided to go to law school," Habba told Bloomberg.

Her switch to law improved her fortunes

After her tenure with Marc Jacobs, Alina Habba enrolled in law school at Widener University, where she graduated in 2010, and was admitted to the New Jersey Bar that same year. She landed a gig as a law clerk working for New Jersey Supreme Court Judge Eugene J. Codey, Jr., before taking a job with a law firm in the state for two years. In 2013, she jumped ship for the Sandelands Eyet law firm, a business operated by Matthew Eyet, whom she married two years earlier. 

By 2020, Habba had left the firm and her husband to form her own practice, Habba Madaio and Associates. The form rolled up its sleeves, handling cases from a class-action lawsuit involving a nursing home stacking bodies of COVID-19 victims in a storage room to civil action against a town allowing a public employee to sexually assault children.

In less than a decade, Habba felt the sweat equity garnered her some prosperity. "I like to say that I earned my stripes prior to president Trump," she reflected on the PDB Podcast. "I was independently successful and always worked hard." But the academic titles on her office wall weren't responsible for landing a ticket to the big time. Instead, that pass took the form of a membership she purchased in 2019 for a Bedminster, New Jersey golf club owned by a real estate magnate who was about to change her life.

Donald Trump added Habba to his payroll

Alina Habba must have left quite an impression on Donald Trump, who was then still the U.S. President when the two first connected at his New Jersey golf club in 2019. "I met her at the club. I said, 'What do you do?'" Trump confirmed to Bloomberg. "Other people also know her at the club and they say she's an excellent attorney, which she is. I gave her a couple of cases to handle; she did a very good job." Detractors couldn't help but feel that her looks had something to do with her joining the Trump legal team, including online users frequently pointing out vague resemblances to her client's wife, Melania Trump.

Donald claimed the Habba hire had an economic component. "I have many big firms that I have, that I use, and can use if I want, but I've found that it's extremely expensive," he explained to the outlet. "I think that using a small firm — even, in some cases, individual lawyers [is] very cost effective." But his options for legal representation also shrank as several big-time firms turned down his business after he lost the 2020 U.S. election and pushed unproven claims about the validity of its results. At any rate, a confident Habba felt she was ready for the big time.

Her star rose dramatically once in the Trump camp

In 2021, one year after Donald Trump lost the presidential election, Alina Habba stepped up for her first test, bringing on a lawsuit that was still on the books after four years. She took on Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice," accusing Trump, then the host and producer, of defamation in response to a sexual assault allegation. As Habba was about to countersue Zervos for trying to quash Trump's ability to speak publicly about the incident, the plaintiff dropped the charges.

That first case was a major coup for Habba, who showed up the more expensive suits on the Trump legal team. "It doesn't hurt that I win cases," she said on the PBD Podcast about working for Trump. "That helps. You know, winning always helps. He doesn't want anybody on his team representing him that's, you know, going to keep failing, of course."

The lawyer drew even more attention that year when she filed a lawsuit against her famous client's niece, Mary Trump, and three New York Times journalists for disclosing damaging tax information concerning the Trump Organization. "I just stepped in," Habba told The Washington Post at the time. "We're hoping to have some traction and clear the President's name." The case was ultimately dismissed because the defendants were protected by the First Amendment. Despite that setback, the case catapulted Habba into the mainstream stratosphere with promises of more public moments to come.

Habba's reputation as a firebrand spiked big-time

Working for Trump, Alina Habba garnered a reputation for being bold and going on offense the moment she hit the courtroom, making her stand out from her pricier veteran colleagues. "I was the attorney that was doing my job, and I was successful," she quipped to Bloomberg. "There were cases that I took on that big white-shoe firms — no disrespect to them — had for years and they couldn't resolve them. And I did."

In 2023, Habba's profile jumped again when she joined teams taking on a defamation lawsuit lobbed against Trump by writer E. Jean Carroll, followed by a multi-million dollar fraud trial against the Trump Organization and their company heads by the Attorney General of New York. During both trials, Habba charged out of the chute, displaying outright hostility while cross-examining witnesses, challenging judges on procedure, and slamming the whole judicial process to the media. The defamation trial judge, Judge Lewis Kaplan, found Habba's behavior so contemptuous, he even threatened to throw her in jail.

Through it all, Habba defiantly took on the judicial system with one theme in mind. "What is being done to President Trump should terrify all citizens of this country," she declared to reporters (via the New York Post). "These are not the ideals that our democracy is founded upon. This is not our America."

Her record took a hit after losing some big cases

The public first saw Alina Habba as a confident lawyer with something to prove, followed by one fueled with anger during more challenging trials. By 2024, the media was reporting on how her previous breakthroughs and wins a year earlier were starting to fizzle out.

In February 2024, Trump lost his case against E. Jean Carroll and was ordered to pay $83 million for defaming the writer in the wake of a sexual assault suit against Trump that she also won. The same month, Trump also lost his fraud trial from the New York Attorney General, forcing the former president to fork over $355 million to the state, plus interest. Disappointed, Trump alluded on social media to the fact that Habba wasn't likely going to be part of his legal team appealing the Carroll results. She was also dropped by former Trump executive Allen Weisselberg after he pleaded guilty to perjury.

Detractors have claimed Habba's performance in the courtroom was suspect. "I am comfortable in saying that the lack of competency on the part of Alina Habba is glaringly obvious now," said MSNBC legal analyst Katie Phang during closing arguments of the Carroll trial. Others felt that Habba was simply following Trump's idea that appealing to the feelings of viewing audiences would work in his favor. "Trump wants a lawyer who will fight in the court of public opinion as much as the courtroom," West Coast Trial Lawyers President Neama Rahmani analyzed to Business Insider.

An earlier scandal came back to bite her

Alina Habba has remained a staunch defender of Donald Trump, raving about how her client treated her. "The man golfed, went to Texas, crushed his speech and still made time to make sure I had birthday cake," Habba once gushed on her Instagram about Trump on the day she turned 39. Despite that benevolence, Trump recently left her flapping in the breeze for a scandal Habba willingly took part in to protect her boss.

In 2021, Habba approached Alice Bianco, an employee at Trump's New Jersey golf course who wanted to blow the whistle on a superior who had sexually harassed her. Habba, presenting herself as an uninvolved party, persuaded Bianco to sign a non-disclosure agreement for what she said was her protection. Finally made aware that the NDA would simply hurt her chances at being compensated, Bianco sued the club.

In 2024, the case was settled out of court for $80,000, leaving Trump and management off the hook. The sole exception was Habba, thanks to one line in the agreement that read (via the Daily Beast), "The parties agree that Alina Habba is not party to this release." That statement left Habba vulnerable to being sued by Bianco for offering fraudulent advice, an avenue her lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, was willing to pursue in March. "She has her voice back, which is why she came to me," Smith told the Daily Beast. "She was illegally silenced and now she can speak whenever she wants."

Habba celebrated her 40th birthday in style

Despite losing at the Carroll and New York fraud trials, the likelihood of not joining the subsequent appeals, and the possibility of getting sued herself, Alina Habba hardly showed any signs of stress. That was particularly evident when she splurged on a lavish getaway at the posh Eden Rock resort on the Caribbean island of St. Bart's to celebrate her 40th birthday in March 2024.

Habba spared no expense, bringing along several of her gal pals – including "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Siggy Flicker — who received opulent Christian Dior gift bags, personalized robes, and straw hats cleverly emblazoned with "Habba Nice Day." According to Page Six, when asked by a wag, "Does the boss know you have the night off?" Habba apparently responded, "The boss doesn't even know I'm here!"

Her boss, Donald Trump, might have been oblivious to Habba's vacation, but folks in the Republican brass were far more observant, and suspicious. Newsweek reported that some were suspicious that Habba could have used some funds from one of Trump's political action committees for her personal holiday, as the committee had earmarked $5.34 million toward her law firm. Habba's festivities were carrying on while Trump was scrambling to get funding to pay $355 million after losing the New York fraud but caught a break when the penalty was shrunk to a $175 million bond.

She became a legal spokesperson for Trump

While legal pundits can argue that Alina Habba's litigation skills weren't up to snuff for some of the biggest trials concerning a former U.S. president, her detractors say the lawyer has particularly shone at getting public attention, a skill already mastered by her boss, Donald Trump. While Habba remains on Trump's payroll, she has taken on a different function as a mouthpiece outside the courtroom instead of in front of a judge.

In April 2024, Habba announced that she would assume her new post as a legal adviser when Trump goes to court for criminal proceedings. "Obviously, you know, being a type A person, I wish I was a criminal attorney but I'm not," said Habba during an appearance on "The Benny Show" podcast. "But the great news is that then I can do this and let everybody know what is actually happening."

She has wasted little time revealing "what is actually happening," such as defending Trump falling asleep during the Stormy Daniels trial. "He reads a lot ... He's been sitting there, as he's forced to, at the threat of going to jail if he's not sitting there, for what I assume would be a very mundane day," Habba argued on Newsmax. Or comparing Trump to a South African freedom fighter when she said on Fox News, "If they put him in jail for his First Amendment right, he will be like Nelson Mandela."