Donald Trump is seeking for the judge overseeing his criminal case in New York to recuse himself from it, the latest bid by the former president to try to undercut the case now set for trial next year.
In a court filing made public Friday, Trump’s attorneys argued that New York Judge Juan Merchan should recuse himself due to his daughter’s politician consulting work, which included in 2020 the Biden campaign and now-Vice President Kamala Harris’ campaign.
Trump’s lawyers also argued that Merchan’s role in prosecutors’ efforts to secure cooperation from former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was grounds for recusal. And they asked the judge to explain his small-dollar political contributions made to Democrats in 2020, including $15 to the campaign of Trump’s opponent, President Joe Biden.
Trump has attacked Merchan as a “Trump-hating judge” as part of his public campaign attacking both the prosecutors and the judge in the case.
Trump was charged in April with 34 counts of falsifying business records over the repayments to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen for hush money payments made during the 2016 campaign. Trump has pleaded not guilty.
In addition to the motion for recusal, Trump’s lawyers have sought to move the New York criminal case into federal court, arguing that the allegations against Trump were tied to his duties as president. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has asked a federal judge to reject Trump’s bid, arguing that Trump himself said the payments were a private agreement. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for later this month.
A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment on the filing urging Merchan to recuse, saying the office would respond in court papers.
The actual decision to recuse will be up to Merchan.
A spokesperson for the New York courts said, “As the case is currently pending in-front of Judge Merchan, it would be inappropriate for any further comment.”
Trump’s lawyers wrote in the court filing that the political consulting work of Merchan’s daughter created an actual or perceived conflict of interest for the judge. They argued that Merchan’s rulings could “result in a financial benefit” for his daughter and that she “stands to profit from negative rulings or a conviction of (former) President Trump.”
Trump’s lawyers also asked about Merchan’s political donations, asking him to “put on the record relevant information surrounding what appear to be certain political contributions.”
After Trump was indicted in April, CNN and others reported on the small-dollar donations Merchan made in 2020, including $15 to the Biden campaign and $20 to two advocacy groups, according to federal campaign finance records.
Last month Merchan approved a protective order limiting what Trump can say publicly about the case and the evidence his attorneys receive from prosecutors. Merchan read Trump the order at a brief hearing last week where he set the March 25, 2024, trial date.