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Trump attorneys seek recusal of judge in New York criminal case

The former president has railed against Juan Merchan, the judge who presided over his arraignment.
Judge Juan Merchan at his New York office in 2022.
Trump's lawyers are seeking the recusal of Judge Juan Merchan, pictured in his New York office last year.Ahmed Gaber / The New York Times / Redux file

Attorneys for former President Donald Trump have filed a motion seeking to have the judge recuse himself from the Manhattan criminal case against him.

Trump’s lawyers accused Judge Juan Merchan in a statement Wednesday evening of having conflicts, which the statement says are detailed in the motion.

The motion seeks to have Merchan, who presided over Trump’s arraignment on 34 counts of falsifying business records in Manhattan, step aside, Trump's lawyers said.

“President Trump, like all Americans, is entitled under the Constitution to an impartial judge and fair legal process," his lawyers said in the statement, adding that the motion alleges Merchan has "significant conflicts." 

The motion is not yet public, and the Manhattan district attorney’s office was making redactions, lawyers involved in the process said.

A spokesperson said the district attorney's office would review the motion and respond in court papers.

Trump has complained on social media that Merchan, a New York Supreme Court judge, “hates me.” Prominent lawyers NBC News interviewed about Merchan’s reputation say he is fair. (Supreme Court is the name for the state's highest trial court.)

In Wednesday night's statement, Trump's lawyers in part raised the fact that Merchan presided over the criminal case against the Trump Organization. Their statement also refers to Merchan’s daughter's employment with a political firm that worked for President Joe Biden's presidential campaign.

Merchan fined the Trump Organization $1.6 million for a long-running tax fraud scheme. The prosecution's star witness was the Trump Organization's former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, who testified against the company as part of a plea agreement.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges in August and was sentenced to five months in prison. He was sent to Rikers Island in January and released in April.

A Manhattan grand jury indicted Trump in March on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to his role in paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels weeks before the 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about an alleged affair with him a decade earlier. He has pleaded not guilty and has repeatedly denied an affair.

The district attorney's office, which brought the case before the grand jury, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

The criminal trial has been set for March.