Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a fierce defender of Donald Trump and his election conspiracy theories, filed an ethics complaint Friday against the judge presiding over New York’s civil fraud case against the former president’s business, claiming the judge has exhibited “bizarre behavior” and “clear judicial bias” against Trump.
Stefanik’s complaint to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct cites a few purported examples of state Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron expressing “inappropriate bias.” She demands that Engoron recuse himself from the case, which accuses the former president of illegally inflating the value of his assets for financial gain. He is facing a $250 million penalty.
Her petition leads with an incident in a February 2022 hearing, when Engoron pushed back against Trump’s lawyer for claiming New York Attorney General Letitia James was “discriminating” against her client as she sought to compel Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump to testify in the civil investigation of the Trump Organization.
“Last year, Judge Engoron told President Trump’s attorney that the former president is ‘just a bad guy’ who Democrat New York Attorney General Letitia James ‘should go after as the chief law enforcement officer of the state,’” Stefanik, the House GOP conference chair, wrote in her complaint Friday.
That, however, misses the full context of Engoron’s comments, which were more generally addressing James’ duty to seek convictions based on evidence.
“He’s not being discriminated against based on race, is he? Or religion, is he? He’s not a protected class,” Engoron said of Trump, continuing: “If Ms. James has a thing against him, OK, that’s not in my understanding [of] unlawful discrimination. He’s just a bad guy she should go after as the chief law enforcement officer of the state.”
Stefanik also said in her complaint that Engoron “infamously smiled and posed for the cameras” at the start of the trial, and she accused the judge of unfairly imposing a gag order against Trump after the former president made disparaging comments on social media about Engoron’s principle law clerk.
“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 charged Friday.
Her complaint comes days after Trump took the stand for the first time in this trial. While speaking before the court, the 2024 front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination slammed James as a “political hack” leading a “political witch hunt” against him and defended the value of his assets.
“I’m worth billions of dollars more than the financial statements,” Trump said. “This is the opposite of fraud.”
Stefanik was the first leader in the Republican Party to endorse Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.