Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has accused the New York judge overseeing the fraud case against former President Donald Trump of “weaponizing lawfare.”
Stefanik filed an ethics complaint against Judge Arthur Engoron on Nov. 10 and demanded he recuse himself from the proceedings. The congresswoman expressed “serious concerns about the inappropriate bias and judicial intemperance” shown by Engoron.
“This judge’s bizarre behavior has no place in our judicial system, where Judge Engoron is not honoring the defendant’s rights to due process and a fair trial,” she wrote in a letter to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. “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.”
She noted that Engoron had said Trump was “just a bad guy” in response to a complaint from his legal team arguing the former president was being unfairly targeted by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
“If Ms. James has a thing against him, OK, that’s not in my understanding [of] unlawful discrimination,” the judge said during the proceeding in February of 2022. “He’s just a bad guy she should go after as the chief law enforcement officer of the state.”
Stefanik also denounced Engoron for smiling and posing for the camera at the start of the trial.
Engoron entered summary judgment against the defendant 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. Indeed, as the trial evidence has made clear, the defendant paid back the sophisticated Wall Street banks, on time, in full, with interest, as agreed. No insurance company paid a penny. And these banks and insurance companies, supposedly defrauded, continue to do business with the defendant. Yet Judge Engoron decreed before trial the defendant somehow committed fraud.
The New York Republican also noted that Engoron and members of his staff have donated to Democratic causes in violation of Section 100.5 of the state’s judicial code of conduct. The rule bars judges and judicial staff from “contributing, directly or indirectly, money or other valuable consideration in amounts exceeding $500 in the aggregate during any calendar year to all political campaigns for political office.” The rule also applies to “other partisan political activity including, but not limited to, the purchasing of tickets to political functions, except that this $500 limitation shall not apply to an appointee’s contributions to his or her own campaign.”
“When President Trump’s attorneys notified Judge Engoron, Judge Engoron responded by issuing an illegal gag order against President Trump’s legal team,” wrote Stefanik. “Judge Engoron has gone on to gag and fine President Trump for merely criticizing Judge Engoron’s law clerk, which is core political speech protected by the First Amendment.”
“This case is so much bigger than President Donald J. Trump. 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,” the congresswoman said. “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.”
Engoron joined the New York City Civil Court as a judge in 2003 and was elected to the trial court in 2015. While his term is scheduled to end in 2029, he is required to retire at the age of 76 under New York law. Engoron is currently 74.