Saturday, June 03, 2023
Former President Donald Trump's lawyers have requested that Judge Juan Merchan recuse himself from presiding over Trump's criminal case, alleging bias and a conflict of interest.
The lawyers argue that Merchan's daughter works for a digital agency, Authentic, which counts several Democratic officials among its clients, creating an "actual or perceived conflict of interest." They also claim that Merchan displayed a preconceived bias by encouraging Trump Organisation's former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, to cooperate against Trump in a previous case. Weisselberg pleaded guilty to tax fraud after being indicted alongside the Trump Organisation, which was found guilty in a trial overseen by Merchan.
In addition to the recusal request, Trump's lawyers asked Merchan to publicly explain political contributions made in his name during the 2020 presidential campaign. Records show that Merchan made three contributions totaling $35 through ActBlue, supporting President Joe Biden's campaign, the Progressive Turnout Project, and Stop Republicans. The lawyers argue that these contributions raise questions about Merchan's impartiality.
Trump's lawyers emphasised the importance of impartiality in such a historic case and expressed the need for the public to have confidence in the presiding judge. They submitted a motion for recusal along with 42 pages of evidence alleging Merchan's political bias.
Merchan, a respected jurist in Manhattan's criminal court, has not responded to inquiries regarding political donations. The decision on recusal ultimately rests with Merchan himself, who previously rejected a similar request when Trump's company was on trial. Trump's lawyers may also be positioning themselves to raise the issue on appeal if he is convicted. Meanwhile, the hush-money case against Trump continues in state court as his lawyers seek to transfer it to federal court, potentially removing Merchan from the equation.
Trump has been critical of Merchan and his family, claiming anti-Trump bias due to Merchan's daughter working as a political consultant for prominent Democrats, including Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Trump and his allies have portrayed his prosecution as part of a Democrat-led "witch hunt."
Judge Merchan, who emigrated from Colombia as a child, has had previous involvement in high-profile cases, including negotiating Allen Weisselberg's guilty plea. He has not issued a gag order despite Trump's criticism and has expressed his commitment to ensuring Trump has every opportunity to advance his candidacy.
The recusal motion marks the latest development in Trump's criminal case, where he faces 34 counts of falsifying business records related to alleged hush-money payments made during the 2016 campaign. The trial is scheduled for next March.