Hours after his historic impeachment this spring, Donald Trump took his anger out on the judge, complaining that he is a Trump-hating judge with a family full of Trump haters.
On Friday, the presidents’ former attorneys doubled down on that criticism, demanding that Judge Juan Manuel Merchan step down from his criminal case in New York over what they say is anti-Trump bias and a conflict of interest stemming from it. of the work of his daughters for some of them. Wins over Democratic rivals.
Trump’s attorneys allege that Merchan, a respected Manhattan criminal court lawyer, tipped the scales in two other Trump-related cases by getting involved in plea bargains for Trump’s longtime chief financial officer and by forcing him to testify against the Trump Company in exchange for a five-month contract. prison sentence.
Trump attorneys Susan Necheles and Todd Blanche also asked Merchan to explain three political donations totaling $35 that were made to Democratic causes in his name during the 2020 election cycle.
In the New York case, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. The charges relate to silent payments made during the 2016 campaign to bury allegations that Trump had extramarital sex. He denied wrongdoing.
Merchan did not respond to requests from The Associated Press asking him to confirm or deny whether he was the person who made the donations, which include $15 for President Joe Bidens’ campaign against Trump, records show. federal campaign finance. Such contributions are generally prohibited by court rules.
The former presidents’ criminal case is historic, and it is important that the people of New York and this nation be confident that the presiding jurist is impartial, Trump’s lawyers wrote in what is called a motion for recusal.
The recusal decision is up to Merchan himself, who previously denied such a request when the Trumps company was on trial. Trump’s lawyers could also make a play to raise the issue on appeal if he is found guilty. Along with their motion, Trump’s lawyers submitted 42 pages of what it says is evidence of Merchans’ political bias.
The silence case continues in state court while Trump’s lawyers seek to transfer him to federal court, which would also eliminate Merchan from the legal equation. A federal judge has scheduled a June 27 hearing on the request.
A message seeking comment was left for Merchan. A spokesman for the New York state court system, Lucian Chalfen, said that since the case is pending before the judge, it would be inappropriate to comment further.
Merchan has been respectful and extremely accommodating in his limited interactions with Trump and has refused to issue a gag order, even as the ex-president continued to pillory him, District Attorney Alvin Bragg and other people involved in the case. At a recent hearing, Merchan said he goes out of his way to make sure he doesn’t prevent Trump from having every chance to advance his candidacy.
Trump’s recusal motion expands on criticism he has leveled at Merchan and his family in statements and on his Truth Social platform.
Merchans’ daughter, Loren, is a political consultant whose firm has worked on campaigns for prominent Democrats, including Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and California Governor Gavin Newsom.
Trump, the leading contender for the Republican nomination in 2024, could face off against Biden again as he seeks to return to the White House. He and his allies seized on Merchans’ political connections by portraying his prosecution as part of a Democratic-led witch hunt.
I have a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris, Trump said in a speech at his Mar-a-Lago estate, hours after he was impeached April 4.
Among other criticisms of Trump, he claimed that Merchan pushed former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg to plead guilty last summer and acted viciously in presiding over the company’s trial, which resulted in a conviction for tax evasion last December.
Merchan was heavily involved in the negotiations that led to Weisselberg’s appeal on charges of circumventing taxes on benefits, including a Manhattan apartment and luxury cars. Merchan said he wished he could impose a harsher sentence after hearing Weisselberg’s testimony, particularly when he talked about his wife being paid $6,000 for no-show work to qualify for the benefits. social security benefits while her husband was earning a lot of money.
These cases were preludes to Trump’s historic indictment.
The Trump case ended up in the Merchans courtroom due to a rotation in which judges overseeing grand juries deal with any resulting cases, depending on the court system. Merchan also often handles financial matters and runs the Manhattan Mental Health Court, where some defendants have the opportunity to resolve their cases with treatment and supervision.
Merchan, 60, emigrated from Colombia at the age of 6 and grew up in New York. The first member of his family to go to university, he worked his way through school and earned a law degree from Hofstra University in 1994.
He was a Manhattan district attorney and worked in the state attorney general’s office before then-mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed him a family court judge in 2006. Three years later, Merchan was assigned to a trial court, which in New York is called the Supreme Court. .
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