Trump VP hopeful Elise Stefanik files ‘misconduct’ suit against judge overseeing hush money trial

New York Republican congresswoman Elise Stefanik, one of several prominent GOP figures currently jostling to be Donald Trump’s running mate, has filed a misconduct complaint against Judge Juan Merchan, alleging that his appointment to Mr Trump’s ongoing Manhattan hush money trial was “not random at all”.

The House Republican Conference chairwoman wrote to Kay-Ann Porter Campbell, inspector-general of the New York State Unified Court System, calling for an investigation “to determine whether the required random selection process was in fact followed” when Judge Merchan was handed the case brought against Mr Trump by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg last spring.

Ms Stefanik posted the full text of her complaint on X/Twitter, introducing it by alleging that the justice is “a Biden donor whose daughter is fundraising millions off his unprecedented work”, an allusion to Loren Merchan’s work as a political consultant for a number of well-known Democratic politicians, a smear Mr Trump has also used to attempt to discredit the case against him.

In the complaint itself, the representative questions what she refers to as the “repeated assignment of Acting Justice Juan Merchan, a Democrat Party donor, to criminal cases related to President Donald J Trump and his allies”.

She notes that the judge has presided over a previous criminal trial involving the Trump Organization as well as the current hush money case, and will next hear a case against Mr Trump’s former White House strategist Steve Bannon.

On the appointment of justices by a process of random selection, Ms Stefanik writes: “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.

“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.”

Whether Ms Porter Campbell takes her up on her demand for an inquiry into the appointment of Judge Merchan remains to be seen.

As to her point about the justice’s donations to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, The New York Post reports that he did contribute $15 to the “Biden for President” campaign on 26 July 2020 and then $10 each to the Progressive Turnout Project and Stop Republicans groups the following day, citing Federal Election Commission records.

However, Judge Merchan was cleared of misconduct over the combined $45 in donations by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct in July 2023.

Mr Trump has complained almost daily since his hush money trial began – both outside the courthouse and on Truth Social – that the case against him is a “scam” and a “Biden witchhunt” cooked up to discredit him in the eyes of the electorate and keep him away from the campaign trail, although it has certainly garnered plenty of free publicity for his latest presidential run since its onset.

Routinely referring to Judge Merchan as “highly conflicted”, he has also claimed, without evidence, that a jury of 12 Manhattanites are likely to be prejudiced against him, despite making his name as a luxury real estate developer in the borough, and has been fined $10,000 to date by the justice for violating the terms of the gag order placed upon him to protect jurors, witnesses and court staff.

After closing arguments wrapped on Tuesday, the jury was expected to begin its deliberations on Mr Trump’s fate on Wednesday.

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