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Trump Demands New Judge Shortly Before Commencement of Hush-Money Criminal Trial

Donald J. Trump (Credits: CNN)

Days before his hush-money criminal trial, former President Trump is seeking a new judge, aiming to halt and delay the proceedings by citing past grievances with the current judge.

Trump’s legal team, echoing his recent social media complaints, called for Manhattan Judge Juan M. Merchan to step aside, alleging bias due to his daughter’s affiliation with a Democratic political consultancy. This request mirrors a similar one that was rejected by Merchan last August.

In court documents released Friday, Trump’s lawyers argued that it’s inappropriate for Merchan to oversee the case while his daughter potentially benefits from its impact on Trump’s political campaign.

The trial, slated to commence on April 15, represents the first of Trump’s four criminal cases set for trial and marks the first-ever criminal trial involving a former president.

Merchan has not yet made a ruling on the request, leaving the decision solely in his hands. However, should he recuse himself, it would disrupt the trial schedule, granting Trump the delay he has sought while a new judge familiarizes themselves with the case.

Donald Trump (Credits: CNBC)

The defense’s assertions that Judge Merchan’s daughter is profiting from his decisions were met with skepticism by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which sees no grounds for Merchan’s recusal.

Prosecutors argue that the connection between Merchan’s daughter’s firm and the case is tenuous at best, lacking concrete evidence of any direct involvement or conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, Merchan denied Trump’s legal team’s request to compel NBC to provide materials related to its recent documentary on Stormy Daniels, a key witness for the prosecution. Merchan deemed the defense’s subpoena as a “fishing expedition,” lacking sufficient legal basis to warrant access to the news organization’s documentation.

Despite Trump’s attempts to delay the trial, Merchan previously rejected a similar request based on claims of presidential immunity, asserting that the trial should proceed. However, he has yet to rule on another defense motion alleging prejudice due to media coverage.

Donald J. Trump (Credits: The Guardian)

The hush-money case revolves around accusations that Trump manipulated his company’s records to conceal payments to his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who facilitated the suppression of negative stories during Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges of falsifying business records, maintaining that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

Trump’s renewed efforts to have Merchan recuse himself stem from recent social media posts, where he questioned the judge’s impartiality and suggested undue influence due to his daughter’s consulting interests.

Despite Merchan’s prior dismissal of similar requests, Trump’s legal team argues that circumstances have changed with the looming rematch against President Biden and Democrats leveraging Trump’s legal challenges for fundraising purposes.

In light of these developments, Trump’s legal team also raised concerns about Merchan’s recent interview with the Associated Press, suggesting potential violations of judicial conduct rules. In the interview, Merchan emphasized his commitment to upholding the law and ensuring a fair trial without bias.

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