Trump attorneys seek recusal of judge in New York criminal case

Attorneys for Donald Trump have filed a motion seeking to have a judge recuse himself from the Manhattan criminal case against the former president.

Trump’s campaign website posted a statement from his lawyers Wednesday evening that accused Judge Juan Merchan of having conflicts, which the statement says are detailed in the motion.

The motion seeks to have Merchan, who presided over Trump’s arraignment on 34 counts of falsifying business records in Manhattan, step aside in the case, Trump’s lawyers said.

“President Trump, like all Americans, is entitled under the Constitution to an impartial judge and fair legal process,” his lawyers said in the statement, adding that the motion alleges Merchan has “significant conflicts.” 

The motion is not yet public and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office was making redactions, lawyers involved in the process said.

Trump in social media posts has complained Merchan “hates me.” Prominent lawyers interviewed by NBC News about Merchan’s reputation say the New York Supreme Court judge is fair (in New York, the Supreme Court is the name for the state’s highest trial court).

In Wednesday night’s statement, Trump’s lawyers in part raised the fact that Merchan presided over the criminal case against the Trump Organization. Their statement also makes reference to Merchan’s daughter’s employment with a political firm that worked for President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

Merchan fined the Trump Organization $1.6 million for a long-running tax fraud scheme. The prosecution’s star witness was the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, who testified against the company as part of a plea agreement.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges in August and was sentenced to five months in prison. He was sent to Rikers Island in January and was released in April.

Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury in March on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to his role in hush money given to adult film star Stormy Daniels weeks before the 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about an alleged affair with him a decade earlier. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has repeatedly denied an affair.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which brought the case before the grand jury, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

The criminal trial has been set for March 2024.

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