Rep. Elise Stefanik files ethics complaint against judge in Trump's civil fraud trial


WASHINGTON — Rep. Elise Stefanik, the House GOP conference chair, has filed a judicial ethics complaint against the judge presiding over the New York civil fraud case against Donald Trump, accusing Judge Arthur Engoron of “weaponized law fare” against the former president, and calling on the judge to recuse himself.

Engoron had exhibited “clear judicial bias” against Trump, including by telling Trump’s attorney that the former president is “just a bad guy” whom New York Attorney General Letitia James “should go after,” Stefanik, R-N.Y., said in a letter to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. She said the judge had failed to honor Trump’s due process rights, concerns that she said are exacerbated by the former president’s position as the frontrunner for the presidential nomination.

Engoron is presiding over the bench trial of a $250 million lawsuit, meaning the judge will also determine guilt and sentencing in the case. Stemming from a lawsuit James filed last year, it charges Trump with inflating asset values for financial gain. Trump testified angrily on Monday in the high-stakes case and has complained and clashed with the judge for weeks.

Engoron issued a partial gag order on Trump last month after he made disparaging remarks about a law clerk on social media and to reporters. He was fined twice for violating the gag order. The judge expanded the gag order last week to include the former president’s lawyers.

“I filed an official judicial complaint against Judge Arthur Engoron for his inappropriate bias and judicial intemperance in New York’s disgraceful lawsuit against President Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization,” Stefanik said in a statement to NBC News. “Americans are sick and tired of the blatant corruption by radical Leftist judges in NY. All New Yorkers must speak out against the dangerous weaponized lawfare against President Trump.”

Stefanik said in the letter to accompany the complaint that Engoron had illegally gagged Trump’s protected political speech, violated political giving rules with financial contributions to Democrats as recently as 2018, and ignored a decision on the appropriate statute of limitations in the case. At the start of the trial, Engoron “infamously smiled and posed for the cameras,” she noted.

“If Judge Engoron can railroad a billionaire New York businessman, a former President of the United States, and the leading presidential candidate, just imagine what he could do to all New Yorkers,” Stefanik writes. “Judge Engoron’s lawlessness sends an ominous and illegal warning to New York business owners: If New York judges don’t like your politics, they will destroy your business, the livelihood of your employees, and you personally. This Commission cannot let this continue.”

“All Americans, including political opponents, must receive due process and equal protection under our U.S. and New York Constitutions,” Stefanik wrote. “Judge Engoron’s disdain for President Trump and his politics are evident, and the Commission must take corrective action to restore a just process and protect our constitutional rights. Judge Engoron must recuse from this case.”

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the federal judge presiding over Trump’s criminal case over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election had violated his First Amendment rights when issuing a gag order.

Stefanik was the first member of Republican leadership to endorse Trump’s bid for another run at the White House and is a close ally of the former president. The top New York Republican in the House, Stefanik is also suing Gov. Kathy Hochul over a mail-in voting expansion.

Trump faces a demanding trial schedule from his civil and criminal cases, with the lawsuit in New York, and indictments in Georgia, Florida, Manhattan, and Washington, D.C. Four members of the Trump family, including Trump, have testified in the New York case, which could cripple their business.

Overnight, Trump lashed out at the judge in New York on social media, accusing Engoron and James of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct by using “Valuations so LOW that they are Fraudulent.” James has charged Trump with allegedly overstating his family business’s real estate assets.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com



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