Wife of Judge In Trump ‘Hush Money’ Trial Worked for AG Letitia James
Wife of Judge In Trump ‘Hush Money’ Trial Worked for AG Letitia James

By Tom Ozimek

Lara Merchan, the wife of the judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s “hush money” case in Manhattan, once worked for New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the massive $350 million civil fraud case against the former president, with the revelation reviving claims of bias and calls for the judge’s recusal.

Records reviewed by The Epoch Times show that Ms. Merchan worked for 21 years as a Special Assistant to the AG in New York, including three years under Ms. James. She changed jobs over two years ago.

Ms. James is a Democrat who fixated on President Trump as she campaigned for New York attorney general, calling him a “con man” and vowing to shine a “bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings.”

She began investigating the former president soon after taking office, eventually suing him for allegedly misleading banks and others about the value of his assets.

Ms. James eventually won the case on Feb. 16, with New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ordering President Trump and Trump Organization executives to pay $350 million in damages, and barring the former president from doing business in the state for three years.

Judge Juan Merchan is presiding over a separate criminal trial involving President Trump in New York, in which the former president is accused of falsifying business records in order to conceal a $130,000 “hush money” payoff to an adult performer to stay quiet about their alleged affair.

President Trump on his Truth Social platform accused Judge Merchan of bias and corruption, while labeling the case against him “election interference” and also demanding the judge’s recusal.

The former president has also alleged that the judge’s daughter, Loren Merchan, has a partisan interest in the case because she leads a political marketing firm and has represented President Trump’s political opponents, receiving millions from them.

Claims of Conflict of Interest

Judge Merchan imposed a gag order against President Trump in the case and, on April 1, expanded it to include family members of the judge and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

The judge wrote in the order that President Trump’s speech “injects fear in those assigned or called to participate in the proceedings that not only they, but their family members as well, as ‘fair game’ for Defendant’s vitriol.”

Laura Loomer, an independent journalist and popular conservative commentator who on social media shared records that Judge Merchan’s wife worked for Ms. James, wrote in a post on X that this fact represents “another major conflict of interest!”

Various conservative accounts reacted to Ms. Loomer’s post, arguing that the revelation adds to evidence that the judge should recuse himself from the case.

“And this is why they expanded the gag order on Trump,” Paul A. Szypula, a popular conservative commentator on X with over 140,000 followers, said in a post. “It’s even more obvious how biased Judge Merchan is. He has to recuse himself now. There’s clearly at least an appearance of a conflict here. That’s enough in itself.”

Another popular account with over 46,000 followers called “The doppelgängers” argued in a post that, “everyone knows this is all connected and they are all connected to same sources to take down Trump.”

By contrast, Brian Krassenstein, a left-wing political commentator with a similar size following on X, pushed back on Ms. Loomer, saying the fact Judge Merchan’s wife once worked for Ms. James is not evidence of bias or conflict of interest.

“The New York State Attorney General’s office employs more than 700 Assistant Attorneys General. It’s not as if she was Letitia James’ right-hand woman,” he wrote in a post on X. “Literally 40% of all of the staff working in the Office of the AG in NY are ‘Special Assistants.’”

“Loomer is trying to somehow say that since the Judge in Trump’s Manhattan case was or is married to a woman who once worked in an office with 700 other people under the AG, who already won a civil suit against Trump, that Judge Merchan now has a conflict of interest,” he continued.

Further, Mr. Krassenstein suggested that Ms. Loomer, who is a vocal Trump supporter, may even have posted about the judge’s wife at his direction.

“If so that would likely be illegal now that a gag order is in place,” Mr. Krassenstein said.

Lara Merchan was not immediately reachable for comment.

Judge Merchan has already declined to recuse himself from the case.

In the case, Mr. Bragg charged President Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records, alleging a scheme to influence the 2016 election with payments meant to bury unfavorable news coverage of the alleged affair with the adult performer, which the former president has denied.

The trial has been set for April 15, and in less than two weeks, the first-ever criminal trial of a former American president will take place in Manhattan.

Catherine Yang contributed to this report.

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