Trump's sister retires, negating judicial ethics complaints

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump's sister has retired as a federal appellate judge in Philadelphia, ending a civil misconduct inquiry launched after a report that she participated in Trump family schemes to dodge taxes.

The retirement of Maryanne Trump Barry was revealed in an April 1 order signed by a top court official in New York, where the misconduct case was assigned to prevent conflicts of interest for judges who knew Barry.

A judicial panel began the review in response to four citizen complaints filed in October after The New York Times published a story alleging the president and his siblings evaded inheritance taxes.

The April 1 order said Barry's voluntary Feb. 11 retirement ends the review stemming from claims based on the news article alleging that Barry may have committed misconduct relating to tax and financial transactions that occurred mostly in the 1980s and 1990s.

The order said the complaint process was meant to correct conditions interfering with the "effective and expeditious" administration of court business. It said the resignation meant that Barry can no longer perform any judicial duties and thus can no longer be investigated.

Barry, 82, was not identified by name in the order, but the facts matched her circumstances, and a copy of the order was sent to Scott Shuchart, an attorney who filed one of the complaints and had been promised by the court to be kept updated on its progress.

Shuchart said he was "absolutely disappointed" that Barry was able to end scrutiny of her actions by retiring.

"If the Times story is correct, then she participated in a decades-long multimillion-dollar tax fraud. That should be an impeachable offense. She gets her full salary," he said.

"I think it's appalling that we're continuing to pay this criminal and that she now has completely avoided consequence," Shuchart added. "It's ridiculous."

Barry didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia released a statement calling Barry a "judicial giant" whose 36 years as a judge in the Philadelphia federal courts were "beyond exemplary."

"Judge Barry was a very hard working jurist with a sharp mind, keen instincts, and a quick wit. She was a role model for women in the law, and she took that responsibility seriously," Smith said.

Judge Theodore McKee, another of Barry's 3rd Circuit's colleagues, told The Associated Press that Barry was a meticulous judge who protected the court's reputation, and to the extent the complaints "may have cast aspersions on that, I know she would have been very concerned."

The 15,000-word Times report last year said that Trump's father, Fred, transferred ownership of most of his real estate empire to his four living children before he died in the late 1990s.

The Times investigation, based in part on more than 100,000 pages of financial documents including confidential tax returns from the father and his companies, concluded that the value of the properties was vastly understated when they were reported as $41.4 million. It said the properties were later sold over the next decade for over 16 times that amount.

The Times reported Trump's parents transferred over $1 billion to their children. It said that the transfer should have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million, but that the children paid only about $52.2 million.

Trump has called the Times expose a false "hit piece."

If members of the family did break any laws, the expiration of a statute of limitations makes a criminal prosecution unlikely, though lawsuits might be possible.

With a recently approved retroactive pay raise for federal appellate judges, Barry will receive $223,700 annually in retirement.

After her brother's election, Barry gave up her court staff and took inactive status in early 2017.

A Republican, she was nominated for a judgeship by President Ronald Reagan and was elevated to the circuit court by President Bill Clinton.

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Dale reported from Philadelphia.

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