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Friday, April 12, 2024

Corrupt Judge Merchan Expands Gag Order after Trump Slams Conflict of Interests

'It is no longer just a mere possibility... that there exists a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings. The threat is very real. Admonitions are not enough, nor is reliance on self-restraint...'

(Headline USA) Manhattan Judge Juan M. Merchan amended a week-old gag order to cover his own family members after presumptive Republican presidential nominee exposed a serious conflict of interests involving his daughter, Democrat operative Loren Merchan, who has raised some $93 million of the case for her consulting business.

“This pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose,” whined the judge, who thus far has refused calls to recuse himself, despite revelations that he, too, had given money to Trump’s political opponents.

“It merely injects fear in those assigned or called to participate in the proceedings that not only they, but their family members as well, are ‘fair game,’ for Defendant’s vitriol,” Merchan claimed, ignoring the legitimate concerns raised by the defense.

Several other New York judges criticized by Trump in his series of coordinated lawfare attacks, including Arthur Engoron and Lewis Kaplan, have also proven to be biased in their actions both on and off the bench through the course of their respective trials. All are either declared Democrats or were appointed by Democrat officials.

The gag order also echoes one in Trump’s Washington, D.C., case issued by equally biased and corrupt District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, a Barack Obama appointee, that prohibits any statements about the court’s staff, prosecution team or their families.

The issue with Merchan’s daughter first came to light after Loren Merchan posted a picture of Trump behind bars as the profile photo on a private account last week but quickly deleted it once it went public and was linked to her.

Despite the role his daughter had in thrusting herself into the public eye, Merchan moped over the fact that he was fearful for his own safety and that of his family members who could potentially have their feelings hurt by the mean social-media posts.

“Again, all citizens called upon to participate in these proceedings, whether as a juror, a witness or in some other capacity, must now concern themselves not only with their own personal safety, but with the safety and the potential for personal attacks upon their loved ones,” Merchan wrote. “That reality cannot be overstated.”

Merchan is due to oversee the trial starting on April 15, which George Soros-backed District Attorney Alvin Bragg filed after a lengthy and highly politicized investigation in connection with Trump’s alleged falsification of financial forms.

Trump is accused of failing to disclose the “hush money” payments that his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy bunny Karen McDougal. In order to make the charges extend past their expired statute of limitations, Bragg had to rewrite the law himself, changing a misdemeanor to a felony.

Trump pleaded not guilty last April to 34 counts. He denies having sex with Daniels, and his lawyers have said that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses, not part of any coverup.

At Bragg’s request, Merchan last week banned Trump from making public statements about witnesses, jurors and others connected with the case. 

For now, Trump is still free to criticize Merchan and Bragg. But under the revised gag order, the D.A.’s family is now off-limits from his rhetoric, too.

A violation could result in Trump being held in contempt of court, fined or even jailed.

Merchan, in expanding the gag order, also warned Trump he’ll forfeit his right to see the names of jurors—which are otherwise being kept from the public—if he persists.

Trump’s lawyer, Susan Necheles, declined comment. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office also declined comment.

Trump posted a three-part statement on Truth Social last week that criticized the gag order and reupped the calls for Merchan to recuse himself in light of his daughter’s paid Democratic advocacy. He said the judge was “wrongfully attempting to deprive me of my First Amendment Right to speak out against the Weaponization of Law Enforcement” by Democratic rivals and that Loren Merchan “makes money by working to ‘Get Trump.’”

Just two weeks before jury selection, Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors wrangled in a series of court filings over the bounds of the original gag order and whether Trump had overstepped them.

“It is no longer just a mere possibility or a reasonable likelihood that there exists a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings,” Merchan complained in his order on Monday. “The threat is very real. Admonitions are not enough, nor is reliance on self-restraint.”

Merchan responded after prosecutors asked him Friday to “clarify or confirm” the scope of the gag order and to direct Trump to “immediately desist from attacks on family members.”

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass implored Merchan to “make abundantly clear” to Trump that the gag order protects the judge’s family, Bragg’s family and the family members of all other individuals it covers. He urged Merchan to warn Trump “that his recent conduct is contumacious and direct him to immediately desist.”

Trump’s lawyers fought the gag order and its expansion, citing constitutional concerns about restricting Trump’s speech further while he’s campaigning for president and fighting criminal charges.

On Monday, they said they would soon ask again for Merchan to step aside from the case— promising a court filing in the coming days seeking his recusal based on what they said were “changed circumstances and newly discovered evidence.”

Merchan refused the defense’s calls to exit the case last year when they first made an issue of his daughter’s consulting work and questioned donations he’d made to Democratic causes during the 2020 campaign, including $15 to Biden.

Merchan insisted then that a state court ethics panel found Loren Merchan’s work had no bearing on his impartiality. He ruled last September that he was certain of his “ability to be fair and impartial” and that Trump’s lawyers had “failed to demonstrate that there exists concrete, or even realistic” reasons for recusal.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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