Prosecutor battles Trump bid to oust judge in NY hush-money case

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Donald Trump’s bid to oust the judge overseeing the criminal case against him over a hush-money payment to a porn star should be rejected, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said in a filing on Tuesday.

Trump has a “history of baselessly accusing state and federal judges around the country of bias,” prosecutors wrote in opposing Trump’s motion for New York state Justice Juan Merchan to remove himself from the case.

A lawyer for Trump declined to comment.

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The former Republican president has said Merchan is conflicted because his daughter has worked for Democrats and stands to benefit financially from a conviction in the case.

He has also said Merchan pushed former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg to cooperate with prosecutors, which he alleged showed the judge’s bias, during the criminal tax fraud case against the company.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records tied to a payment to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors said the payment was meant to buy her silence about a sexual encounter she claims she had with Trump. Trump has denied the encounter.

In opposing Merchan’s recusal, prosecutors cited a Reuters report of a recent Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics opinion that mirrored the facts of the case, without identifying the judge.

The opinion said a judge’s impartiality “cannot reasonably questioned based on the business and/or political activities of the judge’s first-degree relative,” when there was no sign the case would affect the relative or the business.

Trump also questioned $35 in political donations made by Merchan, including $15 to a group that supported Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

Prosecutors said the modest amount did not warrant recusal, and that adopting Trump’s arguments would effectively let Trump hand-pick a judge by excluding judges appointed by Democrats.

They also said “at no point” did Merchan “induce” Weisselberg to cooperate against Trump.

Finally, prosecutors said, Trump’s history of attacking courts and judges, “makes clear that this motion is based on tactics, not ethics.”

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