Donald Trump’s go-to lawyer in New Jersey, Alina Habba, has quietly settled a lawsuit from a former employee who made her out to be a racist, insensitive boss—one who drops the n-word while blasting rap in the office and allegedly referred to New York’s attorney general as “that Black bitch.”
It’s unclear how much Habba paid to settle the matter, if anything at all. The deal is cloaked in secrecy and both sides—including, oddly, the former employee’s lawyer—are bound by a non-disparagement agreement that forbids anyone from dishing dirt on the other, according to a person familiar with the agreement.
Secretly recorded audio tapes from inside Habba’s office appear to have played a role in pushing the lawsuit into out-of-court negotiations, according to that source. Habba’s firm never even filed an answer to the initial lawsuit in court.
On Sept. 6, attorneys for Habba and her aggrieved ex-secretary signed a document agreeing to dismiss the case “with prejudice,” meaning that the lawsuit is gone for good. They officially filed it in Middlesex County Superior Court last week.
Habba did not return calls for comment. Jacqueline L. Tillmann, the ex-secretary’s attorney in Princeton, confirmed that the case came to a close.
“We reached a resolution, but I cannot comment on the details,” Tillmann said, repeatedly stressing the word “resolution.”
Habba runs a tiny law firm in the Jersey suburbs located a short drive from Trump’s National Golf Club Bedminster. She has quickly risen from obscurity to become the former president’s main lawyer on several cases drawing national attention while moonlighting as his aggressive advocate on right-wing TV.
Habba was behind Trump’s conspiracy-laden lawsuit against former political rival Hillary Clinton (which just got tossed), is set to defend him at an upcoming trial over the way his corporate security goons beat up protesters outside Trump Tower, and is currently fighting the New York AG’s business fraud investigation.
Like so many of Trump’s lawyers, Habba has become a possible witness in a brewing scandal involving the former president. In her role on the New York AG case, she personally swore in court documents that she conducted a “diligent” search for relevant business records by rummaging through “all desks, drawers, nightstands, dressers, closets, etc.” at Mar-a-Lago on May 5—awkward timing that potentially makes her a witness in the FBI’s historic criminal investigation of Trump for mishandling classified records that were found last month in those very desks, drawers, and storage closets.
That means her law firm is sitting on a mountain of what could be damning evidence, which made her former employee’s lawsuit this summer all the more intriguing.
Her legal secretary, Na’syia Drayton, quit in frustration on Trump’s birthday and sued a few weeks later on July 19. Given the firm’s small size, this low-level administrative employee regularly handled office paperwork—everything ranging from business records to correspondence—putting her in a uniquely damaging position.
In her lawsuit, Drayton, who is Black, accused Habba of frequently playing “inappropriate gangster rap and hip hop music in the office… repeatedly singing and using the racial slur n—-,” and at one point during a staff luncheon at a restaurant loudly suggesting that she order fried chicken because “you people like fried chicken.” The suit also claimed Habba once got fed up with the constant legal battles against New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is Black, and shouted, “I hate that Black bitch!”
“Habba began parading around the office seething about the judge, and complaining that she had lost her argument,” the lawsuit reads. “Drayton was appalled about the racist remarks made about the Attorney General, Letitia James and felt astonished that her supervisor, [Habba], felt comfortable and entitled to make such statements in the workplace, in her presence.”
The lawsuit goes on to describe how Drayton allegedly began getting panic attacks, leading her to isolate herself off from the few coworkers she had at the office—including Habba and her law firm partner, Michael Madaio. The lawsuit also claimed Habba noticed and called Drayton into her office, where the boss questioned whether the secretary was still a “good fit” for the office—to which Drayton responded by blaming the whole thing on simply being too uncomfortably cold at the office.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later that Drayton finally emailed her bosses, revealing the racial animus that had bothered her so much at the office. The day after Habba struck a deal with New York investigators about having Trump testify before the AG—with tensions already running high—the attorney suddenly got an email from her own secretary titled “workplace environment feeling uncomfortable,” which laid out several instances where Drayton said she felt “extremely uncomfortable.”
“I was deeply affected by these comments and feel disrespected and unwelcome at work. I feel increasingly anxious and am concerned that my health is being affected,” Drayton wrote. “I hope that by bringing this to your attention, we can reestablish a productive work environment.”
According to the lawsuit, Habba immediately phoned Drayton and a heated discussion ensued. The complaint quotes Habba denying that she’s racist and saying, “I am a fucking minority myself… I’m not White. I used to be bullied because I am Arab… everybody listens to Kanye West—and, I’m not allowed to?”
Immediately after the lawsuit was filed, Habba flatly denied ever shouting about the New York AG’s race and issued a statement portraying Drayton as a disgruntled employee who simply sought an expensive payout.
“Na’Syia is someone we love and care about and have for years. Na’Syia had never made a single complaint to anyone until she had decided to quit and ask for an exorbitant amount of money in return,” Habba said then.
At the time, Drayton’s lawyer acknowledged that she tried to quickly settle the matter quietly but that Habba’s law firm wouldn’t budge. She said Drayton was out of a job, has a family to support, and would have preferred the financial stability of a monetary settlement without having to sue.
“We tried, but we were not able to come to an agreement. I do think it's unfortunate that we couldn't arrive at something. It's my policy to try to settle things,” Drayton said in July.
On Friday, Tillmann said she couldn’t even say whether Drayton felt as if she came out on top. Reached by phone, Drayton declined to comment.