Days Before Hush Money Trial, New Demand From Trump

Ex-president's lawyers want Judge Juan Merchan to step away, alleging conflict of interest, bias
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 6, 2024 6:30 AM CDT
Trump to Hush Money Judge: Step Away
Former President Trump arrives for a press conference at 40 Wall Street in New York after a pretrial hearing on March 25.   (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Donald Trump is demanding a new judge just days before his hush money criminal trial is set to begin, rehashing long-standing grievances with the current judge in a long-shot, 11th-hour bid to disrupt and delay the case. Trump's lawyers, echoing his recent social media complaints, urged Manhattan Judge Juan M. Merchan to step aside from the case, alleging bias and a conflict of interest because his daughter, Loren Merchan, is a Democratic political consultant, per the AP. The judge rejected a similar request last August. In court papers made public Friday, Trump's lawyers said it's improper for Judge Merchan "to preside over these proceedings while Ms. Merchan benefits, financially and reputationally, from the manner in which this case is interfering" with Trump's campaign as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. The trial is set to begin April 15.

It's the first of Trump's four criminal cases set to go to trial and would be the first-ever criminal trial of a former president. Merchan didn't immediately rule, and the decision is entirely up to him. If he were to exit, it would throw the trial schedule into disarray, giving Trump a long-sought postponement while a new judge gets up to speed. The defense's claims that Loren Merchan is profiting from her father's decisions require "multiple attenuated factual leaps here that undercut any direct connection" between her firm and this case, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo wrote in a letter to the judge. "This daisy chain of innuendos is a far cry from evidence" that Judge Merchan has a direct, personal, or financial interest in reaching a particular conclusion, Colangelo wrote.

Loren Merchan is president of Authentic Campaigns, which has collected at least $70 million in payments from Democratic candidates and causes since she helped found the company in 2018, records show. In seeking Merchan's recusal, Trump's lawyers also took issue with his decision to give an interview to the AP last month, suggesting he may have violated judicial conduct rules, and they questioned his use of a court spokesperson last week to deny Trump's claims that she'd posted an image of Trump in jail. In the interview, Merchan said he and his staff were working diligently to prepare for the historic first trial of a former president, noting, "There's no agenda here. We want to follow the law. We want justice to be done." More here.

(More Trump hush-money trial stories.)

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