Trump Files Recusal Motion for Judge Overseeing Hush Money Case
Trump Files Recusal Motion for Judge Overseeing Hush Money Case

By Aldgra Fredly

Former President Donald Trump has filed a motion to recuse Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who oversees his hush money case, citing a conflict of interest due to his daughter’s ties with Democrats.

In a 37-page court filing made public on April 5, the defense said that it is improper for Justice Merchan to preside over these proceedings while his daughter, Loren Merchan, “benefits, financially and reputationally, from the manner in which this case is interfering” with the presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign.

President Trump’s lawyers said that Ms. Merchan has “a direct financial interest in these proceedings” due to her ownership stake and leadership role at Authentic Campaigns, whose clients include Democrat candidates.

Loren Merchan is president of Authentic Campaigns, which has collected at least $70 million in payments from Democratic candidates and causes since she helped found the company in 2018, records show.

The firm’s past clients include President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Senate Majority PAC, a political committee affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Senate Majority PAC has paid Authentic $15.2 million, according to campaign finance disclosures.

According to the filing, at least six of Authentic’s clients “used fundraising solicitations that referenced this case around the time of the Indictment, President Trump’s arraignment, or following the Court’s denial of President Trump’s recusal motion.”

“Authentic’s clients disbursed more than $18 million to the company between the return of the Indictment and the present,” the filing said.

It also stated that between February and March 2024, the firm marketed its services using connections to President Biden and Ms. Harris, as well as “graphics and other content that derided President Trump.”

The filing added that Ms. Merchan shared posts that reflected “hostility” toward President Trump on an X account, which she deleted last April, the same month that the judge solicited an ethics opinion about recusal.

“The Court’s interest in these proceedings by virtue of the close relationship with an immediate relative, and Ms. Merchan’s ongoing receipt of commercial and reputational benefits based on the manner in which Your Honor has conducted these proceedings, requires recusal based on an actual conflict and an unacceptable appearance of impropriety,” it stated.

President Trump’s lawyers argued that “it would be completely unacceptable to most New Yorkers if the judge presiding over these proceedings had an adult child who worked at WinRed or MAGA Inc.”

“This logic of this conclusion is further demonstrated by the fact that Ms. Merchan is not simply a salaried employee of Authentic, she is an owner with equity in the enterprise.

“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,” the filing stated.

The judge did not immediately rule.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at 40 Wall Street after a pre-trial hearing in New York City on March 25, 2024. (Michael Santiago/Getty Images)

The Manhattan District Attorney has charged President Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records, alleging a scheme to influence the 2016 elections with payments made to kill unfavorable news stories.

Michael Cohen, formerly President Trump’s personal attorney, had gone on the record claiming that he made such payments to bury allegations of an affair brought forth by an adult film star, leading to investigation of the case.

Previous Recusal Motion

Last summer, the Trump team filed for Justice Merchan to recuse himself, making similar arguments that Justice Merchan’s impartiality might be compromised due to his daughter’s political work.

In a six-page decision in August 2023, Justice Merchan rebutted these claims, stating that the evidence provided by President Trump was speculative and fell short of the legal threshold for recusal.

The motion highlighted concerns over the judge’s previous involvement in a case against Allen Weisselberg, The Trump Organization’s CFO, suggesting that it indicated bias against President Trump.

Additionally, President Trump raised issues over alleged 2020 campaign contributions by New York’s highest court members, insinuating a lack of impartiality.

Justice Merchan addressed these concerns by emphasizing that such modest political contributions made over two years ago do not undermine the judiciary’s impartiality.

Catherine Yang, Chase Smith, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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