New York Tosses Stefanik’s Trump Court Complaint in Bank Fraud Civil Suit

Anna Moneymaker
Anna Moneymaker

A long-shot MAGA political stunt to personally interfere with the judge who ultimately found Donald Trump liable for bank fraud fizzled out quietly months ago, according to a state document marked “confidential” obtained by The Daily Beast.

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur F. Engoron and his law clerk, Allison Greenfield, were cleared by a state commission of allegations of “inappropriate bias and judicial intemperance.”

The decision appears to have surprised the Republican congresswoman who filed the complaint. Asked on Monday about its dismissal, staff for Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) responded by demanding to know on what basis The Daily Beast could assert the complaint went nowhere. Stefanik’s executive director, Alex DeGrasse, did not say whether the congresswoman had received a copy of the decision. After this story was published, DeGrasse told The Daily Beast in a statement, “New York’s court system is partisan, corrupt, and rigged. Chairwoman Elise Stefanik and House Republicans will continue to expose the blatant illegal lawfare and weaponization of the government and courts against President Trump.”

During Trump’s bank fraud trial last year, the former president employed allies to engage in bad-faith attacks on Engoron and Greenfield. The most prominent was an ethics complaint filed by Stefanik to the state’s judicial commission, describing “serious concerns about … inappropriate bias and judicial intemperance shown.”

Although nearly all such complaints are filed and processed in secret, Stefanik announced the accusation on X in November, in what was largely seen as an attempt to get in Trump’s good graces and elevate her profile while the presumptive Republican presidential nominee narrows down his list of candidates for vice president.

Judge Arthur F. Engoron presides over Donald Trump's civil fraud case.

Judge Arthur F. Engoron presides over Donald Trump's civil fraud case at New York State Supreme Court on Oct. 17, 2023 in New York City.

Andrew Kelly-Pool/Getty Images

“Americans are sick and tired of the blatant corruption by radical Leftist judges in NY,” Stefanik wrote in a 1,800-word post. “All New Yorkers must speak out against the dangerous weaponized lawfare against President Trump.”

In her letter, Stefanik breathlessly claimed the judge “illegally gagged” Trump—when in fact the judge merely barred the former president from launching unprecedented attacks against court staff. Stefanik also alleged that Engoron and his law clerk were “partisan Democrat donors,” drawing attention to Greenfield’s political spending but conveniently ignoring the fact she was legitimately running for local public office, to become a judge herself.

“Judge Engoron’s bizarre and biased behavior is making New York’s judicial system a laughingstock,” Stefanik wrote to the commission on Nov. 10, 2023.

But Engoron and Greenfield got the last laugh.

On March 14, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct chucked out Stefanik’s accusation. The legal process typically takes place behind closed doors, but The Daily Beast acquired a copy of the decision.

“The commission dismissed the complaint, having found no basis on the facts presented to commence an investigation,” wrote Robert H. Tembeckjian, the commission administrator and counsel.

As a result, Trump won’t have some of the ammunition he was hoping for as he seeks to appeal the half-billion-dollar judgment hanging over his real estate portfolio in New York and beyond.

Donald Trump sits in the courtroom during his civil fraud trial at New York Supreme Court.

Donald Trump sits in the courtroom during his civil fraud trial at New York Supreme Court on Jan. 11, 2024 in New York City.

Jefferson Siegel-Pool/Getty Images

In February, Engoron issued a $364 million judgment that has ballooned with interest. After struggling to find a lender willing to help him post the massive bond, Trump eventually settled on a little-known insurance company that isn’t even licensed in New York. The Daily Beast quickly discovered that the insurer is playing a corporate shell game in the Cayman Islands that fraud experts said “stinks to high heaven.”

Next to such sums, Stefanik’s doomed judicial ethics complaint might seem inconsequential—were it not for what it represented: one part of Trump’s assault on the judiciary as he faces criminal indictments and costly lawsuits.

Every time a judge hits Trump with a gag order limiting his ability to direct his loyalist MAGA brigade’s rage against the courts, prosecutors, and witnesses, the former president relies on other politicians to pick up the baton.

When Trump was indicted in Atlanta for attempting to corrupt the 2020 election in Georgia, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) used his leadership position in Congress to legally demand information about the local prosecutor’s actions. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis responded in a letter accusing Jordan of “abusing your authority as Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary to attempt to obstruct and interfere with a Georgia criminal prosecution.”

The pattern repeated itself in New York, where Jordan tried to meddle with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s criminal prosecution of Trump by convening a show hearing to discuss “Bragg’s pro-crime, anti-victim policies.” Bragg sued Jordan, to stop his “intimidation.”

In Stefanik’s case, the congresswoman’s empty judicial ethics complaint picked up on allegations initially made in a Twitter screed posted by a MAGA troll in Wisconsin—one who later sued Greenfield, dropped the case, then sued her again.

These attempts to disrupt the bank fraud trial occurred while Engoron’s chambers were flooded with death threats aimed at him and Greenfield. At one point, the situation grew so severe that the U.S. Department of Justice pointed to it to support its calls for a federal gag order on Trump in his Washington-based election interference case.

In the end, Stefanik’s complaint proved to be nothing more than a distraction—like so much of Trump’s legal strategy.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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