May 21, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Stefanik files ethics complaint against Judge Merchan

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY)  joins former President Donald Trump during a campaign rally in New Hampshire.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) joins former President Trump during a campaign rally in New Hampshire. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) filed an ethics complaint Tuesday accusing the judge presiding over former President Trump's New York hush money trial of a conflict of interest, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The letter is unlikely to have an immediate effect on the trial, but it's the latest chapter in Trump allies attempting to defend the former president by lodging complaints against the judge and prosecutors involved in the case.

  • "Acting Judge [Juan] Merchan is in clear violation of section 100.3(E)(1)(d)(iii) of the Rules of Judicial Conduct for the New York State Unified Court System as his family has enriched itself through anti-Trump fundraising mentioning this case directly," Stefanik told Axios in a statement.
  • A Trump acquittal would be "detrimental to Democrats, including clients of Judge Merchan's daughter," Stefanik said in a letter to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct requesting an investigation.
  • "If, on the other hand, [Trump] is convicted, such a verdict would provide a fundraising windfall for Democrat clients of Judge Merchan's daughter."

Zoom in: Stefanik's argument is akin to that of the Trump campaign and other right-wing Trump allies, who have seized upon Merchan's daughter, Loren, and her Democratic consulting work to call for Merchan's recusal.

The other side: Merchan last August rejected Trump's demand that he step aside from the criminal hush money case, citing guidance from the New York court system's Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics about his daughter's employment.

  • The New York court system did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The big picture: Stefanik, a close Trump ally and one of his most vocal defenders in Congress, has filed five formal complaints against judges and prosecutors involved in cases against Trump.

  • Those include complaints to the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the New York Bar Association and DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility.
  • In November of last year, Stefanik previously filed an ethics complaint against Judge Arthur Engoron, the judge presiding over Trump's civil fraud trial, accusing Engoron of "weaponized lawfare" against Trump.
  • That complaint was dismissed.
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