‘Potential Misconduct’ Complaint Filed Against Judge Overseeing Trump Trial
‘Potential Misconduct’ Complaint Filed Against Judge Overseeing Trump Trial

By Jack Phillips

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) filed a complaint against the judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York, alleging that his selection in the former president’s case wasn’t random.

“The potential misconduct pertains to the repeated assignment of Acting Justice Juan Merchan, a Democrat Party donor, to criminal cases related to President Donald J. Trump and his allies,” Ms. Stefanik, who has been reportedly aiming to become the former president’s vice presidential pick, wrote in a letter Tuesday.

She added that Judge Merchan “also presided over the criminal trial against the Trump Organization and will be presiding over the criminal trial of Steve Bannon,” who was a senior adviser to the former president while he was in the White House.

Ms. Stefanik noted in her letter that there are about three dozen judges eligible to oversee the Trump-related cases, but Judge Merchan, who is an acting justice, was selected for three of the cases related to the former president and presumptive Republican nominee for the White House in 2024.

“If justices were indeed being randomly assigned in the Criminal Term, the probability of two specific criminal cases being assigned to the same justice is quite low, and the probability of three specific criminal cases being assigned to the same justice is infinitesimally small. And yet, we see Acting Justice Merchan on all three cases,” she wrote.

Her letter made reference to Judge Merchan’s donations to the Democratic Party and President Joe Biden, while adding his daughter is in charge of a consulting company that works with Democratic officials.

“One cannot help but suspect that the ‘random selection’ at work in the assignment of Acting Justice Merchan, a Democrat Party donor, to these cases involving prominent Republicans, is in fact not random at all,” the lawmaker added in her letter.

The Epoch Times contacted the Supreme Court of the State of New York and the New York State Office of Court Administration for comment.

In a statement to media outlets, the New York State Office of Court Administration said that the judge’s assignment to the Trump criminal case followed standard protocol.

“As we’ve said repeatedly, including in April 2023, Judge Merchan was assigned to supervise the special grand juries that investigated the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg as well as Donald Trump,” the statement said. “He was, in turn, assigned the indictments that arose from those investigations, which is common practice since the judge supervising the grand jury investigation already has some familiarity with these often-complex cases and can manage them more efficiently.”

In response to President Trump’s lawyers’ claims about having a conflict of interest, Judge Merchan in mid-April declined to recuse himself from the case and denied his request. A complaint submitted by his attorneys said that the judge has a conflict of interest because of his daughter’s consulting work.

But Judge Merchan said on the opening day of the criminal trial that his attorneys “failed to provide” evidence showing he has a conflict of interest in the case, adding the claims were based on a “series of inferences” and “innuendos.” The judge also stated that “there is no agenda here,” adding that ”we want to follow the law.”

A gag order was issued against President Trump by Judge Merchan earlier this year, arguing that his comments on social media and in public would put undue pressure on potential witnesses, jury members, and others connected to the trial. Under the order, President Trump is allowed to be critical of the judge and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the case.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) speaks during a press conference in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on April 30, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Last year, President Trump was indicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records in relation to repayments to a former associate and former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to allegedly purchase the silence of women who made claims about affairs with the former president, which he has denied. Prosecutors say the plan was an attempt to interfere with the 2016 election.

The former president has pleaded not guilty, saying that the trial is an attempt to keep him off the campaign trail for the 2024 presidential election and designed to harm his reelection chances.

On Wednesday, the jury is slated to start their deliberations after both prosecutors and the defense make their closing arguments in the case.

The judge told jurors on Wednesday: “It is not my responsibility to judge the evidence here. It is yours.”

Meanwhile, President Trump has not publicly signaled who he might select as his 2024 running mate, but there has been media-driven speculation that she might be vying for the spot.  She previously said that she would be “honored” to serve in a Trump administration “in any capacity.”

The former president has said he will not select his running mate before the Republican National Convention in July.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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