Bragg Scoffs at Trump’s Demands That Judge in Stormy Daniels Case Recuse Himself Due to Democrat-Activist Daughter, Slams ‘Daisy Chain of Innuendos’ 

Mr. Trump and his lawyers are repeatedly pressing their case that Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter, Loren, has created a hopeless conflict of interest for her father.

Getty Images
The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, is trying to convict President Trump of multiple felonies regarding alleged hush money payments to a porn star, Stormy Daniels. Getty Images

The office of the Manhattan Assistant District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, blasted President Trump’s renewed request that the judge, who presides over the upcoming hush-money trial, should recuse himself due to his daughter’s work as a Democratic operative.  

“This daisy chain of innuendos is a far cry from evidence,” a Manhattan assistant district attorney, Michael Colangelo, wrote in a letter to the judge on Tuesday. Mr. Colangelo was referring to the arguments defense attorney’s raised in a letter they had sent on Monday, seeking permission to file a motion for recusal.      

“This Judge should be recused, and the case should be thrown out.” Mr. Trump wrote on his Truth Social account on Tuesday morning. “There has virtually never been a more conflicted judge than this one.” 

The New York state supreme court judge, Juan Merchan, already denied a motion for recusal from Mr. Trump last August. Yet Mr. Trump’s attorneys are arguing that new evidence gives them reason to ask again.

Loren Merchan, Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter, has worked as a Democratic operative. Facebook

The trial that Judge Merchan will be overseeing is the first criminal prosecution against a former president in the history of the United States. Mr. Bragg has charged Mr. Trump with illegally covering up an alleged hush-money payment to an adult film star, Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to stop her from publicizing a sexual encounter she claims to have had with Mr. Trump in 2006. The deal, Mr. Bragg says, was orchestrated by one of Mr. Trump’s former lawyers, Michael Cohen, intending to bury the affair during the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Trump denies all the charges as well as the extramarital encounter.

Mr. Trump is facing four criminal indictments in three states and the District of Columbia, but three of the cases are mired in appeals and delays and are unlikely to go to trial before the November election. The hush money trial, however, is slated to begin later this month. Should Judge Merchan recuse himself, the ensuing disorder would probably push this trial past November as well, a goal of Mr. Trump’s legal team.

If found guilty, the former president could face a prison sentence. Yet because Mr. Trump has no prior convictions, a more lenient punishment will be more likely in more normal circumstances. 

“Nobody wants to be indicted,” Mr. Trump told reporters aboard his airplane in June, The New York Times recently reported.  “I don’t care that my poll numbers went up by a lot. I don’t want to be indicted. I’ve never been indicted. I went through my whole life, now I get indicted every two months.” 

Justice Juan Manuel Merchan is presiding over the case despite demands by the defense that he recuse himself. LinkedIn

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump reiterated his view that Mr. Bragg’s indictments are politically motivated and intended to stop him from becoming president. “Please remember, ALL of these Lawsuits, Charges, and Indictments that have been brought against me have been orchestrated and coordinated by Crooked Joe Biden, the White House, and the DOJ, as an ATTACK ON CROOKED’S POLITICAL OPPONENT, ME,” Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social. 

Meanwhile his defense attorneys expressed their renewed concern that Judge Merchan is unfit to run the upcoming trial.  “Your Honor’s daughter is an executive and partner at Authentic Campaigns, Inc.,” a defense attorney, Todd Blanche, said in his letter. The Sun previously reported that the judge’s daughter, Loren Merchan, is a Democratic political consultant, whose clients included two of Mr. Trump’s most committed enemies, Vice President Harris and California Congressman Adam Schiff.  

A recent article in the New York Post claimed that two of Ms. Merchan’s major Democratic clients raised $93 million in campaign donations by using the hush-money case “in their solicitation emails.” 

The defense cited the same source the New York Post had quoted, the Federal Election Commission, as proof that Authentic had “received millions of dollars in disbursements from entities associated with President Trump’s political rivals since the Indictment was returned,” Mr. Blanche argued.   

Judge Juan Merchan addresses President Trump regarding his rights and requirements, April 4, 2023, at a Manhattan courtroom.
Judge Juan Merchan addresses President Trump regarding his rights and requirements, April 4, 2023, at a Manhattan courtroom. Elizabeth Williams via AP

“The trial in this case will benefit Authentic financially by providing its clients more fodder for fundraising, Authentic will make more money by assisting with those communications, and Your Honor’s daughter will continue to earn money from these developments by virtue of her senior role at Authentic,” wrote Mr. Todd, insisting that, “there is strong evidence that Authentic has used this case to make money.”  

Mr. Colangelo fired back that these arguments “merely” repeated the issues the defense already raised in August 2023, “based on Authentic’s client list.” The court and the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, New York’s judicial ethics body, decided then that, “A relative’s independent political activities do not provide a reasonable basis to question the judge’s impartiality.” In other words, the political engagements of a judge’s daughter do not affect the judge’s ability to be impartial.       

The assistant district attorney called the defense’s concern, that Ms. Loren’s clients were soliciting donations by referring to Mr. Trump’s criminal case, a baseless claim, because they did not prove any connection between the court’s judgment and the political fundraising of his daughter.    

“Defendant’s own careful wording reveals the multiple attenuated factual leaps here that undercut any direct connection between Authentic and this case: Authentic has received money from ‘entities’; those entities are ‘associated with’ politicians; and those politicians have raised money based on this case,” Mr. Colangelo wrote. “This daisy chain of innuendos is a far cry from evidence that this Court has ‘a direct, personal, substantial or pecuniary interest in reaching a particular conclusion.’” 

President Trump talks to attorney Susan Necheles during his pre-trial hearing. Brendan McDermid-Pool/Getty Images

Mr. Colangelo also addressed the defense’s accusation that the judge was a hypocrite. Last week, Judge Merchan issued a gag order against Mr. Trump, prohibiting him from making comments about the court staff, counsel, witnesses and jurors, and their family members. After Mr. Trump unleashed a Truth Social tirade against the judge’s daughter and her political affiliations, calling her a “Rabid Trump Hater”, the district attorney’s office asked the judge to expand the gag order and include the family members of the court, and of the district attorney, Alvin Bragg. Yesterday the judge granted that request and amended the gag order. 

The defense had, of course, opposed any expansion of a gag order, which they vehemently argued was unjust, because it limits the speech of a client, who is running to be the next president, and voicing his opinion is an essential element of his campaign. In their opposition letter, defense attorneys flipped the script on the judge, writing that an “expansion would be particularly inappropriate in light of the fact that the Court appears to have recently violated Canon 3 by making public statements about the case.”          

As evidence, the defense attorneys cited a glowing profile published by the Associated Press on March 17, titled, “’There’s no agenda here’: a look at the judge, who is overseeing Trump’s hush money trial.” The article describes Judge Merchan as evincing a “mannerly but firm formality” during hearings in the Trump case and describes his upbringing: he was born in Colombia and emigrated to the United States at the age of six. It describes other criminal cases Judge Merchan ruled over, such as another case involving Mr. Trump, his company, and longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg. In that case, Mr. Trump’s attorneys have accused Judge Merchan of strong arming Weisselberg, 76, into a plea agreement.

But prosecutors argued on Tuesday that the judge does not make any comments about the hush-money case in the article. All he says is, “There’s no agenda here. We want to follow the law.” 

Stormy Daniels attends the Los Angeles Premiere Of Neon’s “Pleasure” at Linwood Dunn Theater on May 11, 2022 at Los Angeles. Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

“Even if the Court did have this case in mind, expressing a broad commitment to impartiality is very obviously not a prohibited ‘comment about a pending or impending proceeding,’” Mr. Colangelo wrote. 

In the meantime, Mr. Trump expressed his discontent on Truth Social, posting on Tuesday morning that, “I just was informed that another corrupt New York Judge, Juan Merchan, GAGGED me so that I can not talk about the corruption and conflicts taking place in his courtroom with respect to a case that everyone, including the D.A., felt should never have been brought. They can talk about me, but I can’t talk about them??? That sounds fair, doesn’t it?”  

Shortly after, Mr. Trump posted a Fox News clip, in which the host Brian Kilmeade discussed the gag order, the judge’s daughter and the fact that Mr. Colangelo used to work in the Justice Department under President Biden with George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley.   

Mr. Turley called the gag order against Mr. Trump “controversial”. While Mr. Trump’s nemesis and former lawyer, Cohen, is “going on the air every night, attacking Trump and basically campaigning against him,” Mr. Turley said, “he’s not allowed to respond.”   

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference following the arraignment of President Trump April 4, 2023 at New York City. Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Mr. Trump titled the post, “JONATHAN TURLEY: “THE INTEGRITY OF THE NEW YORK LEGAL SYSTEM IS AT STAKE HERE…” 

The post, which is now a “pinned truth” on Truth Social, sparked controversy online, when Ron Filipkowski, the editor in chief of the liberal outlet MeidasTouch, claimed that Mr. Trump had “likely” violated the newly extended gag order by sharing news commentaries about Ms. Merchan. 

Mr. Filipkowski has been described by Politico as “The Hard-Tweeting Defense Lawyer GOP Candidates Have Learned to Fear.” The former Marine is a criminal defense attorney and former state and federal prosecutor from Cape Cod, who lives in Sarasota, Florida. Mr. Filipkowski was a member of the Republican Party until January 2021. He became, what he calls a conservative Democrat, after the riot at the Capitol on January 6. MeidasTouch, is fiercely critical of Mr. Trump. 

However, it is unclear if posting a news clip where news anchors and a law professor voice their criticism and concerns about the criminal case in civil tones actually violates the gag order. 

Michael Cohen at New York supreme court, October 24, 2023.
Michael Cohen at New York supreme court, October 24, 2023. AP/Stefan Jeremiah, file

So far Judge Merchan has not issued any violations, at least not by Tuesday evening.

The defense asked the court to file their second motion for recusal by Wednesday, April 3. The trial is scheduled to begin on April 15. 


The New York Sun

© 2024 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  Create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use