Former President Donald Trump's lawyers want a different judge to handle his criminal case in New York, citing "significant conflicts."
The May 31 statement from a Trump spokesperson refers to a motion that Trump's attorneys were to file, seeking a replacement for Judge Juan Merchan to hear the case in which Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the accusations.
Merchan's daughter "stands to significantly financially benefit from a decision her father may make because of her direct efforts with Joe Biden’s campaign," according to the statement, which did not elaborate. President Joe Biden is the frontrunner for the Democrats' nomination for the 2024 presidential election; Trump is currently leading a Republican field of contenders to challenge Biden's reelection bid.
Court spokesman Lucian Chalfen told The Epoch Times in an email that criminal filings in the Manhattan court may be viewed only in person, not online, and, "As this is a pending matter before Judge Merchan, it would be inappropriate to comment further."
The Epoch Times is attempting to obtain the motion, which the Trump campaign says will outline the judge's conduct in a previous case.
"He pushed former Trump Organization CFO, Alan Weisselberg, to cooperate against the Trump Corporation and President Trump," the Trump spokesperson said.
Further, Merchan also "apparently made political contributions to Joe Biden and to causes such as ‘Stop Republicans,'" the statement asserts.
Wrong Court?Meanwhile, Trump's lawyers are seeking to transfer the state case to a federal court. They say the case belongs in federal court because some of the allegations involve actions that occurred in 2017, Trump's first year as president. In addition, they say the case revolves around alleged violations of federal election law, raising "important federal questions."
The case stems from a so-called $130,000 "hush money" payment made by Michael Cohen, then a Trump lawyer, to keep an alleged sex scandal quiet during the 2016 election campaign.
In the criminal case, Trump is accused of creating false business records to conceal that he was reimbursing Cohen for the payment made to Stephanie Clifford, also known as adult film star Stormy Daniels. Clifford claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006. He denies the allegation.
Cohen pleaded guilty to several federal crimes, including making illegal campaign contributions.
Not a 'Federal Officer'District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office argues that the hush-money criminal case belongs in state court.
Bragg, who has been accused of singling out Trump unfairly, wrote in his latest filing: "No other President has falsified the business records of his private enterprises while in office as part of an unlawful scheme to pay off an adult film actress during the election, concealing election law, tax law, and honest book-keeping crimes along the way. The unusual facts are thus of defendant’s making, not evidence of selective prosecution."
Bragg also argues that Trump is not considered "an officer of the United States" who would be entitled to have the state case transferred to a federal court. The U.S. Supreme Court has generally excluded elected leaders, such as the president and vice president, from being classified as federal "officers," Bragg said.
A hearing on whether to move the case to federal court is set for June 27 before U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein.
If the case proceeds in state court, the next hearing is scheduled on Jan. 4, 2024. Merchan set a trial date for March 25, 2024, in the thick of the primary election season. The judge advised Trump to cancel all commitments to accommodate a trial that could span several weeks.