Donald Trump demands new judge in hush-money criminal trial

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Former President Donald Trump is demanding a new judge just days before his hush-money criminal trial is set to begin, rehashing longstanding grievances with the current judge in a long-shot, eleventh-hour bid to disrupt and delay the case.

Trump’s lawyers — echoing his recent social media complaints — urged Manhattan Judge Juan M. Merchan to step aside from the case, alleging bias and a conflict of interest because his daughter is a Democratic political consultant. The judge rejected a similar request last August.

In court papers made public Friday, Trump’s lawyers said it is improper for Merchan “to preside over these proceedings while Ms. Merchan benefits, financially and reputationally, from the manner in which this case is interfering” with Trump’s campaign as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

The trial is scheduled to begin April 15. It is the first of Trump’s four criminal cases scheduled to go to trial and would be the first-ever criminal trial of a former president.

Merchan didn’t immediately rule. The decision is entirely up to him. If he were to exit, it would throw the trial schedule into disarray, giving Trump a long-sought postponement while a new judge gets up to speed.

Messages seeking comment were left for a court spokesperson and for Merchan’s daughter, Loren Merchan. The Manhattan district attorney’s office said it sees no reason for Merchan to step aside.

The defence’s claims that Loren Merchan is profiting from her father’s decisions require “multiple attenuated factual leaps here that undercut any direct connection” between her firm and this case, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo wrote in a letter to the judge.

“This daisy chain of innuendos is a far cry from evidence” that Judge Merchan has a direct, personal or financial interest in reaching a particular conclusion, Colangelo wrote.

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.