Trump mounts new push to recuse judge in hush money case

Former President Trump on Friday demanded his hush money judge recuse himself from the upcoming trial, now less than two weeks away, over his daughter’s firm’s digital marketing work for prominent Democrats. 

Last summer, Justice Juan Merchan rejected an earlier recusal motion that also cited his daughter’s employment. 

Trump’s second attempt comes after Merchan limited Trump’s public statements about the judge’s daughter and others. The judge has also grown perturbed by Trump’s last-minute tactics to stave off the April 15 start date, which is slated to be the former president’s first criminal trial.

Trump’s lawyers argued that Merchan’s daughter, Loren, has a “direct financial interest” in the former president’s case, noting that two clients of her firm, the progressive digital agency Authentic, are President Biden and Vice President Harris.  

“Personal political views may not be a basis for recusal. But profiting from the promotion of a political agenda that is hostile to President Trump, and has included fundraising solicitations based on this case, must be,” Trump lawyers Todd Blanche and Emil Bove wrote in a 37-page motion. “Accordingly, President Trump respectfully requests that the Court recuse itself.” 

In his role overseeing the case, Merchan wields “enormous power” to “incarcerate and incapacitate” Trump — the “chief political rival” to several Authentic clients — creating a conflict of interest requiring recusal, the lawyers argued.  

Former President Trump listens as his attorney Todd Blanche speaks during a press conference at 40 Wall Street after a pretrial hearing on March 25 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

In less than two weeks, jury selection is scheduled to begin to determine whether Trump falsified business records to criminally cover up a 2016 hush money payment to an adult film actress who alleged a sexual encounter with Trump. Trump, who denies the affair, pleaded not guilty. 

The former president’s lawyers noted that clients like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who is running to represent California in the Senate, have used language in their digital marketing explicitly fundraising off of Trump’s legal woes. 

They quoted a fundraising solicitation from Schiff’s campaign that read: “The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has indicted Donald Trump for criminal offenses — the first-ever indictment of a former American president.” 

The motion noted similar fundraising tactics from the Senate Majority PAC and the House Majority PAC.  

Last year, Merchan rejected Trump’s original recusal motion that cited his daughter’s employment and $35 in donations the judge made during the 2020 campaign cycle to the Biden campaign and two liberal-leaning groups. 

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The judge said he had received guidance from a state ethics advisory committee that he didn’t need to step aside. 

On Tuesday, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s (D) office said there were “no changed circumstances” that warrant revisiting Merchan’s refusal. 

The Hill requested comment from the district attorney’s office. 

Trump’s lawyers contend that even if the court determines recusal is not required by law, recusal would still be appropriate based on “the appearances of impropriety arising from the foregoing facts.” 

Updated at 4:30 p.m.

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