Judge Juan Merchan’s Donation Earmarked for ‘Resisting Trump’ Draws New Scrutiny

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

With a controversial gag order restricting much of what former President Donald Trump could say about his business records trial in New York, one topic he did not shy away from was the potential conflicts of interest surrounding Judge Juan Merchan.

Following Trump’s conviction on all 34 felony counts and the likely appeal that is to come, Merchan is under the microscope in a renewed way – including donations he made to a leftist group.

On Friday’s show, Megyn was joined by attorneys Dave Aronberg, Mike Davis, and Phil Holloway to discuss the judge’s curious donation history and whether he should have recused himself from the case.

The Donation

According to reporting from Reuters, a confidential ethics complaint was filed against Merchan last year in connection with a small contribution he made in 2020. Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show Merchan donated $35 to the Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue – including $15 earmarked for “Biden for President” on July 26, 2020, and $10 each to “Progressive Turnout Project” and “Stop Republicans.”

A New York state courts spokesman confirmed earlier this month that Merchan was cleared by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. “Justice Merchan said the complaint, from more than a year ago, was dismissed in July with a caution,” Al Baker, a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration, told Reuters.

The “caution” allows the commission to consider the complaint in the future if Merchan is ever accused of wrongdoing again. Judges cannot make political contributions under Commission on Judicial Conduct rules, but the group’s 2024 report noted several dozen jurists have violated the policy in recent years.

In addition to the donation, Merchan’s objectiveness was called into question because of his daughter’s involvement in Democrat politics. Loren Merchan is president of Authentic Campaigns, a Chicago-based political consulting group with progressive leanings and ties to politicians like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and major Democrat fundraisers like Senate Majority PAC.

To Recuse or Not to Recuse

In Davis’ view, all of this was grounds for Merchan to recuse himself from the case. “That was clearly an illegal campaign contribution by a judge under New York law that got him reprimanded by the New York court system,” he said. “But guess what? That didn’t deter this corrupt Democrat, Juan Merchan, whose adult daughter is raising millions of dollars off of this unprecedented criminal trial over which her father presided – requiring his recusal under New York statute – to recuse himself. Instead, he retaliated against President Trump with an illegal, unconstitutional gag order.”

Holloway agreed that a recusal was in order on those accounts but said it goes even further. “The judge has his own legal reasons why he should have recused himself, notwithstanding any bias he personally might have,” he said. “You had all of these ridiculous rulings that culminated with this ridiculous jury instruction that allowed the jury to be non-unanimous on one of the essential elements of the events… You have a garbage in, garbage out, and that is what this verdict is: garbage.”

But Aronberg, who is a Democrat, was not so sure. “First, this New York state Commission on Judicial Conduct said in an advisory opinion last May, that ‘his modest political contributions’ made more than two years ago cannot reasonably create an impression of bias or favoritism in the case,” he said. “They gave him a clean bill of health to go forward with it.”

And he was also willing to defend what happened during the trial. “There are a lot of missed opportunities for the defense,” Aronberg explained. “It wasn’t just like you have one judge and they railroaded Donald Trump. They had a lot of evidence. The jury took nine hours. They asked a lot of questions. And in the end, they made the decision based on the facts and the evidence.”

Given the fact that Democrats are actively trying to force U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself from certain January 6 litigation due to flags his wife flew at their home, Megyn said there appears to be a double standard at play. “That is too much, that poses a an appearance of impropriety,” she concluded. “But it is fine for this judge to have donated money to the ‘Resist the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s Radical Right Wing Legacy’ group?”

You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Aronberg, Davis, and Holloway by tuning in to episode 807 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.