Stefanik Files Ethics Complaint Against Trump Fraud Trial Judge
EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. — Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., filed an ethics complaint on Friday calling for the removal of the judge presiding over the $250 million business fraud trial of former President Donald Trump.
Stefanik, who serves as House Republican Conference chair, is one of the former president’s staunchest allies in Congress.
In a complaint that she posted in its entirety on the X social media platform, she urges the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct to immediately remove Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron from the case, which is set to resume on Monday.
“Judge Engoron’s bizarre and biased behavior is making New York’s judicial system a laughingstock,” Stefanik wrote.
“Former Southern District of New York federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, who has at times criticized President Trump, recently stated that he views the ‘whole New York justice system’ as ‘fraudulent,’” she continued.
McCarthy, a conservative commentator, is a Fox News contributor, a contributing editor at National Review and a fellow at the National Review Institute.
Stefanik goes on to lambast the judge for granting summary judgment against Trump “before the trial even began, without witnesses, other evidence, and cross-examination.”
“This, despite the fact there’s disputed material evidence — and there’s no victim of the defendant’s supposed fraud,” she said.
According to Black’s Law Dictionary summary judgment is “a judgment granted on a claim about which there is no genuine issue of material fact and upon which the movant is entitled to prevail as a matter of trial.”
Typically the use of this procedural device allows for the speedy disposition of a case without the need for a trial.
Engoron’s ruling, handed down in September, came after Trump’s attorney requested summary judgment, arguing they were entitled to a victory before trial and seeking to get him to toss out most of the claims lodged against their client by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
They based their assertion on an appellate court ruling that said some of the claims James raised may be barred by the statute of limitations.
Engoron, to the surprise of some, instead granted summary judgment to James on her main charge against the Trump Organization: that it fraudulently inflated the value of its showcase properties.
While he acknowledged there were other questions for a jury to look at in the case — which is why the case went to trial last week — Engoron concluded the main question of fraud had already been proven.
“This instant action is essentially a ‘documents case,’” the judge said in a 35-page ruling. “The documents here clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.”
The decision threatens to end Trump’s control over a flagship commercial property at 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and a family estate in Westchester County.
Trump could also lose control over his other high-profile New York properties, including Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan and his golf club in Westchester County.
In her judicial complaint, Stefanik claims the decision and Engoron’s handling of the ongoing trial have “made it crystal clear he doesn’t care what the defendant or his attorneys have to say.”
“Indeed, Judge Engoron illegally gagged them,” she said. “Judge Engoron told the defendant: ‘We are not here to listen to what you have to say.’ He told the defendant’s counsel: ‘I am not here to hear what he has to say, now sit down!’ And Judge Engoron even threatened the defendant’s counsel if he filed a routine motion for a directed verdict.”
Stefanik goes on to charge that Engoron and his staff “are partisan Democrat donors” who supported the party’s candidates monetarily as recently as 2018.
“Section 100.5 [of the New York Judicial Code] … stipulates that a ‘judge shall prohibit members of the judge’s staff’ from contributing more than $500 ‘in the aggregate during any calendar year to all political campaigns for political office,’” she writes.
Stefanik then turns her attention to Allison Greenfield, who has served as Engoron’s principal law clerk since 2019.
“In both 2022 and 2023,” Stefanik writes, “Greenfield donated in excess of $500 to political campaigns.
“In 2022 alone, Greenfield donated $3,335 in political donations to Democrat candidates and causes … [and] she’s already given more than $1,000 in 2023 to campaigns,” the representative continues.
“When President Trump’s attorneys notified Judge Engoron, Judge Engoron responded by issuing an illegal gag order against President Trump’s legal team,” she concludes.
Stefanik then takes on the issue of the gag order itself and fines imposed on Trump for violating the order.
She calls Trump’s criticism of Greenfield “core political speech” that is protected by the First Amendment.
“If anyone in America must have the constitutional right to speak out against the judge, his staff, the witnesses, or the process, it’s a defendant going through a process he believes is politicized and weaponized against him,” she said.
“To gag a defendant is un-American. It’s an illegal prior restraint on the defendant’s First Amendment rights, which even the progressive ACLU felt compelled to acknowledge after another Democrat judge — U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan — illegally gagged President Trump” in connection with another of his ongoing cases, this one in the District of Columbia.
“Indeed, three Democrat-appointed judges on the D.C. Circuit have since stayed Judge Chutkan’s illegal gag order,” Stefanik says.
“This case is so much bigger than President Donald J. Trump,” the representative says in closing. “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.
“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,” Stefanik says.
In other Trump legal news, a federal judge in Florida on Friday declined to delay his classified documents trial, calling a request by the former president’s defense lawyers to postpone the date “premature.” But she postponed other deadlines in the case and signaled that she would revisit the trial date later.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is at least a modest victory for special counsel Jack Smith’s team, which had vigorously rejected efforts to push off the trial beyond its scheduled start date of May 20, 2024.