Rep. Stefanik Affects Shock And Outrage In Pointless Judicial Complaint Against Trump Trial Judge

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence Visit The Federal Emergency Management Agency Headquarters

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As villain origin stories go, Rep. Elise Stefanik’s failure to get into law school and subsequent decision to sell her soul to Trump is right up there. If she’d wandered off into the wilds of Biglaw, would NY-21 be represented by some forgettably awful pastyface, toiling in upstate obscurity?

Sadly, we’ll never know. But Stefanik is reliving her dreams for a moment today as she plays lawyer in a complaint to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct which was flagged by NBC.

“I write today to express my serious concerns about the inappropriate bias and judicial intemperance shown by Judge Arthur F. Engoron in New York’s lawsuit against President Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization,” she intones somberly. “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.”

Stefanik goes on to spew Trump talking points as if they’re actual law, including the false claim that Justice Engoron valued Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club at $18 million. In fact, the court simply noted that this was the value assigned by Palm Beach County tax assessors — a value which Trump himself militated for in an effort to decrease his tax liability. And that’s the entire point of this trial: Donald Trump committed persistent fraud by representing the value of his assets as astronomically high or preposterously low depending on whether he was seeking to evade taxes, score a conservation easement, or get a loan.

He also had a nasty habit of leaving out unpleasant details like rent control restrictions, options to purchase at below-market rates, and the fact that local governments had already put the kibosh on future development. Indeed, Trump told just such a lie on the witness stand Monday when he shrugged off a 2002 document in which he agreed that Mar-a-Lago could neither be converted to a private residence nor subdivided for development, writing that “the Club and Trump intend to forever extinguish their right to develop or use the Property for any purpose other than club use.”

On the witness stand, Trump made the idiotic claim that he still retained development rights because “‘Intend’ doesn’t mean we will do it.”

It shouldn’t take a 3L real estate law class to figure out that this is bullshit. But then again, it shouldn’t take a lawyer to work out that appellate review on the subject of the statute of limitations is the due process she claims is absent from this trial. She also complains that Justice Engoron wrongfully refused to transfer Trump’s case to the Commercial Division. As proof, Stefanik links to a story about Administrative Judge Adam Silvera affirming the propriety of Engoron’s decision. Bang up research there, Representative!

The complaint parrots the usual MAGA talking points: She’s mad that Justice Engoron smiled for the cameras in the courtroom. She claims that any gag order is “an illegal prior restraint on the defendant’s First Amendment rights” and mischaracterizes an administrative stay on the DC gag order as a wholesale refutation. She repeats the widely debunked claim that Justice Engoron denied Trump the right to a jury.  And she points to a few hundred dollars in political contributions as proof of gross judicial misconduct requiring censure.

In short, this complaint is a long-form Truth Social post, albeit with fewer spelling and punctuation errors.

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. 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.

Okay, Representative. You did your performative MAGA outrage task for the day. Now you can go back to your regularly scheduled business of shutting down the government and whining about cancel culture.

Surely the Commission will give this document all the attention it deserves.

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.


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