Rep. Stefanik Alleges Major Conflict Of Interest In Trump Trial, Calls For Judge's Recusal

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, May 22, 2024 - 07:25 PM

Authored by Chase Smith via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) has submitted a formal complaint to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, alleging a conflict of interest involving the judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s ongoing New York City trial.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) speaks during a campaign event with Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald J. Trump in Concord, N.H., on Jan. 19, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The complaint, sent on May 21, centers on Acting Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan’s role in the criminal case against President Trump and the professional activities of Justice Merchan’s daughter on behalf of Democratic politicians.

Ms. Stefanik publicly chastised the judge before filing the official complaint. Last week in a statement she stated that Justice Merchan “who donated to Biden and whose adult daughter is raising millions” from the trial “knows he must recuse under New York statute.”

“[The] New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct just reprimanded Merchan for his inappropriate political donations in 2020,” she said in a May 17 statement. “America is starting to understand Merchan is a corrupt judge, presiding over blatant Biden Democrat lawfare and election interference against Trump—that is lining his family’s pockets. Merchan has disgraced our justice system in New York.”

Conflict of Interest Allegations

In her letter to the Commission, Ms. Stefanik highlighted that Justice Merchan presides over the case where President Trump faces a potential 136 years’ imprisonment if convicted. Ms. Stefanik argued that this case has far-reaching implications, not just for President Trump, but for the broader political landscape, as President Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for the upcoming presidential election.

Ms. Stefanik raised concerns about Justice Merchan’s impartiality due to his daughter’s position as president of Authentic Campaigns, a firm representing prominent Democrat politicians and political action committees (PACs).

According to the complaint, these clients have capitalized on President Trump’s indictment for fundraising purposes.

For instance, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a client of Authentic Campaigns, used the indictment to solicit donations of $10, raising approximately $20 million. Similarly, the Senate Majority PAC raised around $73.6 million following the indictment.

Legal Basis for Recusal

Ms. Stefanik cited a section of the New York State Unified Court System’s Rules of Judicial Conduct, which mandates a judge’s disqualification from a case if a close relative stands to benefit substantially from the proceedings.

Ms. Stefanik asserted that the professional engagements of Justice Merchan’s daughter constitute such a conflict of interest, as her clients’ fundraising efforts are directly linked to the case over which her father presides.

In the complaint, Ms. Stefanik emphasizes, “It is common sense that, if these groups make no money, they cannot afford to pay for services provided by individuals such as Ms. Merchan. The more money raised, the more it can be spent on services.”

Ms. Stefanik’s complaint also referenced comments from U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, a retired federal judge, who expressed concerns in a media interview last month about the potential for perceived bias.

The complaint also pointed to a history of alleged judicial misconduct by Justice Merchan. Recently, media reports asserted that the Commission had privately cautioned him for making political donations to President Joe Biden and other Democrats in 2020. This prior reprimand is cited by Ms. Stefanik as further evidence of partisanship influencing Justice Merchan’s judicial conduct.

Ms. Stefanik asserted, “This private caution has not deterred Judge Merchan’s judicial misconduct, as evidenced by this current complaint. Judge Merchan appears driven by Democrat partisanship and financial gain for his daughter. This caution, as reported by the New York Times, ‘can be considered in any future cases reviewed by the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct.’”

Call for Action

Ms. Stefanik concluded her letter by calling for an investigation into Justice Merchan’s conduct and appropriate disciplinary action. She stressed the importance of maintaining public confidence in the judiciary, particularly in politically sensitive cases.

“It is imperative that New Yorkers and all Americans have confidence that justice is being dispensed fairly in New York,” she wrote in the complaint. “This is especially true in politically sensitive cases where bias is most likely to rear its ugly head. Here, we are in the middle of a presidential election campaign. The circumstances are unprecedented: President Trump, a former president and the likely nominee of a major party for the presidency, is on trial. These proceedings are under a microscope. Judge Merchan’s clear conflict of interest, based upon his adult daughter’s financial state in this unprecedented criminal trial, has badly damaged the court’s appearance of impartiality.”

The defense rested on May 21, and closing arguments will be heard as court resumes in New York next week.

“Given Judge Merchan’s daughter’s clientele—and the vast sums of money that these individuals have raised and will continue to raise off of President Trump’s charges—Judge Merchan’s daughter stands to benefit the more legally imperiled President Trump is,” Ms. Stefanik added. “She is well within the sixth degree of relation to Judge Merchan; indeed, as his daughter, she falls within the first degree. A straightforward application of [a section of the rules on judicial conduct] requires recusal. As Judge Merchan has declined to do so, I request that you investigate his conduct and impose whatever discipline is required.”

The Epoch Times has reached out to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct but the agency has not yet publicly responded to Rep. Stefanik’s complaint.