Stefanik files complaint against judge in Trump’s fraud trial

(The Center Square) — A Republican congresswoman has filed a judicial ethics complaint against the New York judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s business fraud trial.

The ethics complaint filed by Rep. Elise Stefanik, the House GOP conference chair, accuses Judge Arthur F. Engoron of “weaponizing lawfare” with “inappropriate bias and judicial intemperance” in presiding over the case and calls on the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct to investigate the allegations.

In a letter accompanying the complaint, Stefanik alleges that Engoron’s “bizarre behavior” has violated Trump’s protected political speech with a gag order, broken federal campaign finance rules with contributions to Democrats, and ignored recent rulings limiting the statute of limitations in the fraud case.

“These serious concerns are exacerbated by the fact that the defendant is the leading candidate for President of the United States, and it appears the judicial system is being politicized to affect the outcome of the campaign,” Stefanik wrote.

“Simply put, Judge Engoron has displayed a clear judicial bias against the defendant throughout the case, breaking several rules in the New York Code of Judicial Conduct,” she added.

Engoron is overseeing a bench trial in a $250 million business fraud lawsuit accusing Trump, his two oldest sons, the Trump Organization and several executives of inflating the value of Trump’s assets for financial gain.

Last month, Engoron issued a partial gag order against Trump after he made disparaging remarks about a New York state law clerk on social media. Trump has been fined twice for violating the order, and last week, Engoron expanded the restrictions to include the former president’s lawyers.

“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,” Stefanik wrote. “To gag a defendant is un-American.”

She pointed out that the American Civil Liberties Union accused a federal judge presiding over Trump’s criminal case over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election of violating his First Amendment rights by issuing a gag order.

To be sure, Trump has already been found liable for fraud but denied the allegations in combative testimony last week while defending the valuations of his properties.

He has accused Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat whose office filed the charges, of targeting him for political reasons. He has also publicly clashed with Engoron over his testimony and claims of bias in the trial.

Stefanik, a close ally of the former president, told the judicial commission that the charges against Trump are “so much bigger” than efforts to “railroad” a former president and constitute a threat to all New York business owners.

“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,” she wrote. “This commission cannot let this continue.”

Testimony in the civil trial resumes on Monday in New York City, with Donald Trump Jr. expected to take the stand for the defense and several other witnesses.

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