Republicans Pursue Trump Jurists With Ethics Complaints

May 22, 2024 by Tom Ramstack
Republicans Pursue Trump Jurists With Ethics Complaints
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., during a recent press conference on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — Two conservative Republicans in Congress are waging an aggressive campaign of filing official complaints against the legal authorities assigned to criminal and civil cases against former President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., filed an ethics complaint against the judge presiding over Trump’s ongoing New York criminal case.

She said Democratic political consulting by the judge’s daughter creates a conflict of interest for him in the case to decide whether Trump falsified business records to cover up sexual affairs.

The complaint Stefanik filed against New York Judge Juan Merchan is one of four she has filed recently against judges and an attorney who participated in cases against Trump.

She also filed ethics complaints against the judge who oversaw a defamation lawsuit against Trump that he lost, a Justice Department attorney who investigated him and U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, who oversaw the indictment of the former president for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

On Monday, Stefanik and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, sent a letter to the chief judge of the Washington, D.C.-based Circuit Court of Appeals demanding an explanation of why the complaint against Howell was dismissed.

Both of the lawmakers are critics of President Joe Biden for what they say is the weaponization of the federal government against the president’s adversaries. They say he is using the Justice Department to prosecute his political enemies, such as Trump.

Stefanik accused Howell of prejudicial statements that reveal her personal bias against Trump.

The former president is charged with four felony charges for allegedly trying to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Howell presided over the grand jury proceeding that led to the charges.

Stefanik filed an ethics complaint against her in December with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. It was dismissed by the D.C. Circuit’s Executive Office as being “wrongly filed.”

Stefanik’s main complaint was Howell’s Nov. 27, 2023, speech at the Women’s White Collar Defense Association awards gala, where she referred to Trump as “authoritarian.”

NBC News quoted Howell telling the audience, “My D.C. judicial colleagues and I regularly see the impact of big lies at the sentencing of hundreds, hundreds of individuals who have been convicted for offensive conduct on Jan. 6, 2021, when they disrupted the certification of the 2020 presidential election at the U.S. Capitol.”

She praised Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who led pending prosecutions of Trump in Florida and Washington, D.C. In Florida, he was indicted last year on charges of illegally taking and hiding national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago home.

The letter to Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals says, “These comments appear to violate Canon 2B of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, which requires that judges ‘act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.’”

On Wednesday, the Florida judge the Republicans accused of ethics violations appeared to be undeterred as she reviewed new evidence of Trump’s effort to conceal classified documents after he left the presidency.

Stefanik had accused U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon of political bias for appointing a special master to review the seized documents.

Trump’s attorneys asked her to dismiss charges against him of obstructing justice. They said the political nature of the charges indicated they violated his 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.

Cannon did not rule on their motion Wednesday.

The new evidence included video of a Trump employee moving boxes of the documents in an apparent attempt to prevent them from being seized by the FBI. The FBI raided Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Aug. 8, 2022, to recover the documents, some of which contained sensitive military information.

Trump referred to the raid Tuesday in a campaign fundraising email.

It said FBI agents who searched his home were “locked and loaded ready to take me out” in an apparent order from Biden to kill him. The FBI denied the allegation.

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  • Donald Trump
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