New York Judge Describes Trump Jan. 6 Case as ‘Federal Insurrection Matter’

Trump was not charged with insurrection in the federal case. Justice Juan Merchan is presiding over one of four criminal cases against Trump in New York.
New York Judge Describes Trump Jan. 6 Case as ‘Federal Insurrection Matter’
Former President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at 40 Wall Street after a pre-trial hearing in New York City, on March 25, 2024. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Catherine Yang
On April 3, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan denied a defense motion to adjourn the upcoming trial scheduled for April 15, and in his order, referred to former President Donald Trump’s case before the Supreme Court as the “Federal Insurrection Matter.”
“Defendant fully briefed the issue of presidential immunity in his motion to dismiss the matter of United States v. Trump, US Dist Ct, DDC 23 CR 25, (TSC) (hereinafter “Federal Insurrection Matter”) on October 5, 2023,” Justice Merchan wrote.

Justice Merchan is presiding over one of four criminal cases against President Trump. This one is a state case, where Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged President Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records, alleging a scheme to influence the 2016 elections.

The other case in question charges President Trump with four counts of obstruction and conspiracy for his acts on Jan. 6, 2021, but it does not allege insurrection in the indictment.

Special counsel Jack Smith is prosecuting the case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and trial proceedings have been stayed as President Trump pursues an appeal on grounds of presidential immunity.

Counsel for President Trump in the Manhattan case brought the federal case up recently in requesting that the trial be delayed, arguing that the presidential immunity they raised in state court will soon be under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On April 25, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on “whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”

The presidential immunity defense is one President Trump has raised in several of his cases, and attorneys in other cases have requested additional hearings and delays in anticipation of a Supreme Court decision.


It is unclear why Justice Merchan would use the “insurrection” as shorthand for the federal case.

The only appearance of the word “insurrection” is in a quote in response to an attorney saying there would be “riots everywhere” if President Trump remained in office. In response, one of the unnamed co-conspirators tells him, “Well, [Deputy White House Counsel], that’s why there’s an Insurrection Act.”

Separately, critics of President Trump have colloquially referred to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, as an “insurrection,” resulting in a wave of almost 100 state-level lawsuits to disqualify him from the ballot over the past half year.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court heard another case involving President Trump and ruled that states have no authority to disqualify a federal candidate in elections.

However, it would be unlikely that the judge confused the two cases, as President Trump did not argue presidential immunity in the ballot disqualification case, and the Supreme Court issued a ruling ending the challenges on March 4.

Renewed Recusal Request

Defense attorneys in the Manhattan case are also renewing requests that the judge step down, arguing that he has shown partisan interest.

Last August, Justice Merchan rejected an initial motion for recusal. He stated that his small-dollar donations to President Trump’s political opponents and his daughter’s employment at a marketing firm, which has received millions from those campaigning against President Trump, would not affect his ability to try the case impartially.

However, Justice Merchan recently broadened a gag order to prevent President Trump from discussing the judge’s family members. The move follows President Trump’s renewed grievances about the judge’s daughter helping to campaign for politicians such as Vice President Kamala Harris and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

Defense attorneys made another request that the judge recuse himself on April 1, arguing that the judge’s family has commercial interests that “are benefitted by developments in this case that harm President Trump’s penal interests.”

“The trial in this case will benefit Authentic financially by providing its clients more fodder for fundraising, Authentic will make more money by assisting with those communications, and Your Honor’s daughter will continue to earn money from these developments by virtue of her senior role at Authentic,” they wrote in a one-page pre-motion letter, recently required by the judge before a full motion is allowed to be filed.

Based on Federal Election Commission filings, the defense found that “some of those funds were paid to Authentic by entities associated with legislators and PACs that have used email and/or social media to solicit contributions specifically based on this case.”