GOP Rep. Stefanik files ethics complaint

  • Elise Stefanik, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, has filed a complaint seeking to remove the judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s $250 million business fraud trial.
  • Stefanik claimed that Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoro showed “blatant judicial bias” against Trump.
  • Engoron is leading New York Attorney General Letitia James’ case that accuses Trump, his two adult sons and others of fraudulently inflating the values ​​of their assets for various financial benefits.

House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) speaks during a news conference after a meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill on May 10, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Elise Stefanik, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, filed an ethics complaint Friday seeking to remove the judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s $250 million business fraud trial.

Stefanik, the No. 3 Republican in the House and one of Trump’s staunchest allies in the chamber, alleged in his complaint that Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoro displayed “clear judicial bias” against the former president and “strange behavior” during the up-and-coming election. profile civil court.

Stefanik, whose congressional district covers northeastern New York, called on the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct to “take corrective action to restore due process and protect our constitutional rights.”

Stefanik also wrote that Engoron “should recuse himself from this case,” although the commission does not have the authority to remove specific judges.

The complaint is a landmark move by Trump’s political allies in Washington to join an aggressive effort to undermine Engoro, whose job decisions could deal a major blow to the ex-president and his business empire.

The letter from Stefanik, who is not a lawyer and is not involved in the case, could also be used to bolster Trump’s argument if he appeals any of Engoro’s rulings.

After a week of testimony from members of the Trump family at trial, some legal experts said it did little to help their case.

The case will settle claims by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who accused Trump, his two adult sons, his company and some top executives of fraudulently inflating the values ​​of Trump’s assets to boost his net worth and boost his financial gains.

Angoron will proceed to trial without a jury because neither party has requested it.

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Engoron has already prosecuted the accused for the fraud. The trial itself will determine how much damages or other penalties should be awarded to the defendants. The judge will also evaluate six other pending claims in James’ lawsuit.

In addition to seeking nearly $250 million in damages, James Trump Sr. wants to permanently bar Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump from running the New York business.

Stefanik’s letter on Friday echoed many of Trump’s criticisms of Engoron and James’ case, while urging the commission to sanction the judge.

He lashed out at the judge for posing for cameras in the courtroom on the first day of the trial, granting James’ request for a partial summary judgment in a pretrial order and ordering Trump and his attorneys to gag. He also reiterated Trump’s claim that the value of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., was much higher than estimates given during the trial.

Engoron barred Trump from making public statements after Trump repeatedly targeted the judge’s chief law clerk on the second day of the trial. The judge later extended the gag order to Trump’s lawyers after “repeated, inappropriate statements” about their secretary.

Trump has been found to have violated this narrow traffic order twice since it was implemented, resulting in a $15,000 fine. Stefanik called the gag order “un-American.”

His letter also targets the clerk, alleging that he made more political donations to Democratic candidates than was allowed as a judicial officer.

“Judge Engoro’s strange and biased behavior makes the New York court system a laughing stock,” Stefanik wrote. “The commission’s sanctions against Judge Engoron are necessary to restore confidence in the legal system of our great nation.”

Asked to comment on Stefanik’s letter, Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian told CNBC, “All matters before the Commission on Judicial Conduct are confidential by law until a judge is found to have engaged in ethical misconduct and until a decision is made. To that effect.”

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