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Judge in Trump's New York case appears to have donated $15 to Biden for President in 2020

Federal campaign contribution data also shows two small-dollar donations to progressive groups the same year.
Judge Juan Merchan at his New York office in 2022.
Judge Juan Merchan at his New York office in October.Ahmed Gaber / The New York Times / Redux file

Judge Juan Merchan, the New York state judge who presided over former President Donald Trump’s arraignment Tuesday and the recent criminal tax fraud trial involving the Trump Organization, appears to have donated $15 to President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign, federal campaign contribution data shows. 

Federal Election Commission reports show a Juan Merchan, who lists his occupation as a judge with the New York State Office of Court Administration, donated $15 earmarked for Biden for President, Biden’s campaign committee, on July 26, 2020. No other judge listed in the state judicial directory shares Merchan’s name. It’s against federal law to donate in someone else’s name.  

Neither a spokesperson for the state court system nor the judge’s personal chambers responded to requests for comment when asked whether he made the donations.

Records also list two other small donations from the same Juan Merchan to progressive groups a day after the Biden donation — $10 donations on July 27, 2020, to the groups Stop Republicans and Progressive Turnout Project — which are affiliated with each other, meaning it’s possible that a donation of $20 was split evenly across the two groups. All three donations, including the one to Biden, were made through ActBlue, the popular online donation-processing firm used by virtually every major Democratic campaign and allied group. 

The third donation, $15 to Biden one day earlier, is the only other federal political donation attributed to a Juan Merchan of New York in the FEC’s database, which spans multiple decades. 

It’s not uncommon for judges to donate to political candidates — a search of federal campaign donations in 2021 and 2022 turns up more than 30,000 donations from people listing “judge” as their occupation, donations from single-digit sums to more than $10,000. 

Those donations span a variety of groups of both parties, including groups affiliated with Trump. And other judges donated to Biden’s 2020 campaign in the same report where the Merchan donation appears. 

But it would mean Merchan has donated to the onetime — and potential future — political opponent of a defendant now facing a trial in his courtroom. 

The donations are likely to continue to fuel Trump’s criticism of the judge and his family, whom he has accused of being biased against him (Trump and his family have also criticized Merchan’s daughter for her work for then-Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential bid and subsequently for the Biden-Harris presidential ticket). 

“The donations were unwise as a matter of appearance,” said Chuck Rosenberg, an NBC News legal analyst and a former federal prosecutor. “But appearances matter.”

Trump’s presidential campaign did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the apparent donations.