Rep. Elise Stefanik files complaint against judge who has ruled in Jan. 6 and Trump cases

WASHINGTON — Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., filed a complaint Friday alleging judicial misconduct by a federal judge who has overseen various Jan. 6-related cases.

Stefanik, a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump and member of House GOP leadership, formally requested an ethics investigation into U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell over what the New York Republican called a “highly inappropriate political speech” by the judge in November.

The complaint, submitted to D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan and first shared with NBC News, pertains to Howell’s remarks on Nov. 27 when she accepted an award at a Women’s White Collar Defense Association gala. Stefanik argues that Howell’s remarks were “hardly apolitical” and that the judge’s remarks were “plainly inappropriate, consisting of partisan statements, election interference, and improper extrajudicial statements while criminal cases are pending.”

Howell’s acceptance speech focused on the cruciality of facts and cited the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“My D.C. judicial colleagues and I regularly see the impact of big lies at the sentencing of hundreds, hundreds of individuals who have been convicted for offense conduct on January 6, 2021, when they disrupted the certification of the 2020 presidential election at the U.S. Capitol,” Howell said in her speech. “As district court judges, we are all about the facts.”

More than 1,200 people have been charged in connection with Jan. 6, with 700-plus so far pleading guilty to federal charges, according to the Department of Justice.

Stefanik pointed to Howell’s reference to a passage in a book by Heather Cox Richardson, author of “Democracy Awakening,” that said the U.S. was “at a crossroads, teetering on the brink of authoritarianism” as evidence that the judge’s speech veered into politicization.

She argued that Howell “promoted the Democrat political campaign theme that the re-election of Donald Trump equates to America choosing authoritarianism.”

Howell did not mention Trump or Republicans by name but alluded to the former president, including while remarking on the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

In a statement, Stefanik said Howell’s speech “insinuated the election of President Trump will lead to fascism in America.”

“I filed a judicial misconduct complaint against Judge Howell, because election interference by judges destroys public confidence in the federal judiciary, tears apart the fabric of our Republic, and is illegal. It must end now,” Stefanik said.

Howell, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, has previously issued decisions against Jan. 6 defendants and rejected arguments made by Trump lawyers. She also supervised the grand jury for the Mueller probe, as well as special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump.

She served as chief judge for a seven-year term. The position of chief judge is now held by James Boasberg.

Stefanik also pointed to Howell’s remarks about Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, another award recipient at last month’s event. Monaco oversees all all Jan. 6 cases.

“I’ve been in awe of how you remain a model of calm and grace when carrying enormous responsibility for the safety of so many,” Howell said of Monaco in her acceptance speech. “Not just in your current job, but in your prior national security role.”

This isn’t the first time Stefanik has filed an ethics complaint against a judge who has dealt with cases involving the former president. In November, she filed a judicial ethics complaint against Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the $250 million civil fraud case against Trump, arguing he had engaged in “clear judicial bias” against the former president and that he should recuse himself from the case.

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