The Manhattan judge who is handling the hush-money payments case against former President Trump has refused to recuse himself from the case after a request from Trump’s legal team.
Judge Juan Merchan affirmed his ability to be “fair and impartial” in an opinion in which he rejected arguments from Trump’s legal team that he should recuse himself. Trump’s lawyers had pointed to small donations Merchan made to Democrat causes for the 2020 election.
The case against Trump relates to alleged hush money he paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels ahead of his 2016 presidential campaign.
Merchan donated $15 to then-candidate Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, $10 to the Progressive Turnout Project and $10 to Stop Republicans during the 2020 election cycle.
Trump’s lawyers argued that Merchan is biased and noted his daughter’s role as president of a digital firm that has done work for President Biden’s campaign.
Merchan rejected the arguments and referenced findings from the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, which he consulted prior to Trump’s recusal request.
“We see nothing in the inquiry to suggest that the outcome of the case could have any effect on the judge’s relative, the relative’s business, or any of their interests,” the advisory committee wrote.
Regarding the allegations of personal bias, Merchan said Trump’s team had failed to make a substantive argument.
“Defendant has failed to demonstrate that there exists concrete, or even realistic reasons for recusal to be appropriate, much less required on these grounds,” Merchan wrote. “The speculative and hypothetical scenarios offered by Defendant fall well short of the legal standard.”
The trial is scheduled to begin in March 2024. It is one of four indictments the former president currently faces.