Stefanik files ethics complaint against Trump trial judge, cites daughter's work for group promoting Dems

House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik filed an ethics complaint against Judge Juan Merchan for an alleged conflict of interest pertaining to his daughter’s role at a firm known for representing Democratic politicians.

Merchan, an acting Supreme Court justice in New York, is presiding over the unprecedented criminal trial against former President Trump stemming from charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Stefanik, R-N.Y., filed the complaint with the New York State Commission on Judiciary Conduct, warning that Trump, who pleaded not guilty to all 34 counts of falsifying business records, faces “a maximum of 136 years’ imprisonment” if convicted, and said not only are his “interests at stake,” but “the interests of all Americans are at stake.” 

She pointed to Merchan’s daughter, who serves as the president of Authentic Campaigns — a group that represents Democrat politicians and political action committees. 

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Stefanik highlighted how her clients, like Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., have fundraised off of Trump’s indictment and criminal trial. Trump himself has requested Merchan recuse himself from the trial due to his daughter’s work. Merchan said there was no reason for him to do so.

Stefanik added that she learned that the New York State Commission on Judiciary Conduct “privately cautioned him in July over his illegal political donations to Biden and Democrats in 2020.”

“This private caution has not deterred Judge Merchan’s judicial misconduct, as evidenced by this current complaint,” she wrote. “Judge Merchan appears driven by Democrat partisanship and financial gain for his daughter.”

Stefanik said it is “imperative that New Yorkers and all Americans have confidence that justice is being dispensed fairly in New York.”

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“This is especially true in politically sensitive cases where bias is most likely to rear its ugly head. Here, we are in the middle of a presidential election campaign. The circumstances are unprecedented: President Trump, a former president and the likely nominee of a major party for the presidency, is on trial,” Stefanik wrote. “These proceedings are under a microscope.”

On Tuesday, defense attorneys for Trump rested their case without calling former President Trump to the stand to testify. They called two witnesses — paralegal Daniel Sitko and a former legal adviser to Michael Cohen, Robert Costello — before resting their case. Prosecutors rested their case on Monday. 

Merchan dismissed the jury until after Memorial Day. 

Stefanik argued that the judge’s “clear conflict of interest, based upon his adult daughter’s financial state in this unprecedented criminal trial, has badly damaged the court’s appearance of impartiality.”

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“Given Judge Merchan’s daughter’s clientele — and the vast sums of money that these individuals have raised and will continue to raise off of President Trump’s charges — Judge Merchan’s daughter stands to benefit the more legally imperiled President Trump is,” Stefanik said. “She is well within the sixth degree of relation to Judge Merchan; indeed, as his daughter, she falls within the first degree.”

She added: “A straightforward application of Section 100.3(e)(1)(D)(iii) requires recusal. As Judge Merchan has declined to do so, I request that you investigate his conduct and impose whatever discipline is required.”

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