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Manhattan DA fights Trump’s recusal motion in hush-money case: Ex-president has no ‘veto’ power over judges

Alvin Bragg and Donald Trump

Alvin Bragg and Donald Trump (Photos l-r: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images; Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump should not have “veto” power over the judge presiding over his criminal case in New York, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) argued in attempting to fend off a recusal motion.

Facing mounting criminal exposure in state and federal court, Trump has made his attacks against Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan a pivot point of his counteroffensive in New York, where the ex-president faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels.

His legal team leveled various complaints about the judge, trying to paint Merchan as partisan. Merchan’s daughter worked at a consulting firm tied to prominent Democratic figures. The judge contributed small amounts of money to then-candidate Joe Biden and a political action committee called Stop Republicans, totaling $35, and Merchan also presided over separate tax fraud cases involving the Trump Organization and its former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, which ended in convictions.

In a filing released on Tuesday, Bragg argues that none of these facts warrant Merchan’s recusal and that finding otherwise will embolden Trump to attack every judge until he gets his preferred result.

“Given defendant’s denigration of ‘[t]he whole New York Judicial System’ — which defendant has characterized as having judges ‘just as bad or, believe it or not, worse!’ than this Court — it is not mere speculation to be concerned that recusal here would simply invite additional recusal motions until defendant is assigned a judge he likes,” Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo wrote in a footnote.

After the 18-page legal brief, the DA’s office filed several pages of exhibits, consisting mostly of Trump’s posts on Truth Social and Twitter swiping at judges in New York and elsewhere. These comments, prosecutors argue, show that Trump simply wants to “veto any judge who he believes does not share his political views or policy preferences.”

The DA argues that Merchan’s “de minimis” political contributions to Democratic candidates do now show bias, and efforts to recuse New York judges over vastly larger donations in the past have failed.

As for Merchan’s daughter, the DA contends that she has “no direct personal or professional relationship with the People or defendant,” and “she will not receive any part of any financial penalty that may be levied as part of a conviction in this case.”

Citing a blistering ruling in E. Jean Carroll’s sex abuse case, the DA notes that Trump has a record of attacking “courts, judges, various law enforcement officials and other officials, and even individual jurors in other matters.” The motion details how Trump denigrated U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel based on his “Mexican heritage.”

In a $250 million civil fraud case against him, Trump called Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur F. Engoron — who found the former president in contempt for discovery violations in New York Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) investigation — “a highly partisan, Trump Hating Judge.”

These social media posts by former President Trump attacking judges are included as exhibits to Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s legal brief opposing recusal in his New York criminal case.

“These are merely illustrative examples from a much longer catalog of attacks on judges and the judicial system,” the DA’s brief states.

Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment.

Read the DA’s legal brief here.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."