In their plea, Trump's lawyers argued that judge, Merchan, has a conflict of interest and displayed a bias against Trump
Lawyers representing former US President Donald Trump have requested the recusal of Judge Juan Merchan from presiding over the criminal case against the former president.
In a court filing, Trump's lawyers argued that Merchan has a conflict of interest and displayed a bias against Trump. They claimed that Merchan's daughter works for a digital agency whose clients include Democratic officials, creating an actual or perceived conflict of interest.
The lawyers also pointed out that Merchan had urged Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organisation, to cooperate against Trump in a previous case.
Furthermore, Trump's lawyers asked Merchan to publicly explain his political contributions, as records show that he made three donations to Democratic causes during the 2020 presidential campaign. The lawyers argued that these facts demonstrate that Merchan is not impartial and should recuse himself from the case.
The trial for the criminal case against Trump is scheduled for next March. The judge has not yet responded to the request for comment, and the Manhattan district attorney's office said that prosecutors would respond in court papers.
In April, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records related to alleged hush money payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to cover up allegations of extramarital affairs. This indictment made Trump the first former president to face criminal charges.
Trump's lawyers previously requested Merchan's recusal in the case against the Trump Organisation, but the judge declined to step aside. The decision on recusal lies with Merchan himself, and if he rejects the request, Trump's lawyers may raise the issue on appeal if Trump is convicted.
The defense's motion for recusal expands on Trump's criticism of Merchan and his family, with the former president alleging political bias due to the judge's daughter working for Democratic politicians. Trump and his allies have portrayed the prosecution as part of a Democrat-led "witch hunt."
The request for recusal comes as Trump is considered a leading contender for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election. The outcome of the criminal case could potentially impact his political future and his potential rematch with President Joe Biden.