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Rep. Stefanik files misconduct complaint over judge selection in Trump hush money trial

By Brett Rowland
The Center Square

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, filed a misconduct complaint against Judge Juan Merchan, saying that his appointment to former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial was "not random at all."

Stefanik, a close Trump ally who previously called for Merchan to step down, said in a letter to New York State Unified Court System Office of Court Inspector General Kay-Ann Porter Campbell that Merchan's selection wasn't random as required. 

"The potential misconduct pertains to the repeated assignment of Acting Justice Juan Merchan, a Democrat Party donor, to criminal cases related to President Donald J. Trump and his allies," she wrote in the letter. "The Uniform Rules for New York State Trial Courts requires that criminal actions be assigned to a judge 'pursuant to a method of random selection authorized by the Chief Administrator.' If justices were indeed being randomly assigned in the Criminal Term, the probability of two specific criminal cases being assigned to the same justice is quite low, and the probability of three specific criminal cases being assigned to the same justice is infinitesimally small. And yet, we see Acting Justice Merchan on all three cases."

The letter also requests an investigation. 

"I request that both the Commission and the Inspector General investigate this anomaly to determine whether the required random selection process was in fact followed in the assignment of these criminal cases to Acting Justice Merchan," Stefanik wrote in the letter. "If Acting Justice Merchan or any other Justices of the Court are found to have violated these rules, I would hope that the Commission would subject them to the required discipline. And if any non-judicial employees of the Court are involved in such a scheme, I would hope that the Inspector General subject them to the appropriate sanction."

The hush-money case centered around Trump's alleged sexual encounter with an adult film actress in 2006 and a $130,000 payment to her in 2016 to keep her quiet ahead of the 2016 election. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied the encounter happened.

Prosecutors allege that Trump covered up the payment to Stormy Daniels and another hush money payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal ahead of the election, falsifying records to claim they were legal payments.

Trump, 77, is the first former U.S. president to be charged with a felony.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to money paid to Daniels and McDougal. Bragg has alleged Trump broke New York law by falsifying business records with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

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