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Who Is Juan Merchan? What To Know About The Judge In Trump’s First Criminal Trial.

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Topline

The first criminal trial against former President Donald Trump kicked off with jury selection in Manhattan on Monday, bringing renewed attention to presiding Judge Juan Merchan, a longtime jurist who has faced frequent attacks from Trump and his allies.

Key Facts

Merchan and his family emigrated from Colombia to the U.S. at 6 years old, and he grew up in New York and got his first job carrying groceries for tips as a 9-year-old, the New York Times reported.

He received a business degree from Baruch College in 1990 and a law degree from Hofstra University in 1994, according to the Times, and he went on to work as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan for the next five years followed by a stint at the state attorney general’s office.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed him to serve on the Bronx Family Court in 2006, and he became a judge in Manhattan in 2009.

Trump’s trial is not the first high-profile case Merchan has taken on: He’s also overseen the criminal fraud case of ex-Trump aide Steve Bannon and the 2022 criminal tax fraud trial of the Trump Organization (Bannon is still awaiting trial for his role in an allegedly fraudulent border wall-building charity, and the Trump Organization was convicted).

Merchan often oversees cases involving financial matters, and was reportedly assigned to the case following Trump’s grand jury indictment last year due to the rotation of judges on the Manhattan court.

The judge and his family received dozens of threats after Trump’s indictment, which alleged he falsified business records relating to repayments for “hush money” to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

The New York judge, his family and key figures in the trial have also been the subjects of tirades from the former president on Truth Social, which led to Merchan placing—and later expanding—a gag order on the former president in March, and prosecutors are now requesting that Trump be fined $3,000 for alleged violations.

Trump has been particularly critical of Merchan for alleged impartiality and has unsuccessfully pushed Merchan to recuse himself, once saying the judge “HATES ME” in a Truth Social post, as Merchan made $35 in political contributions to Democratic candidates in 2020—his daughter, Loren Merchan, who’s also been subject to Trump’s criticisms, works for a digital marketing firm that works with Democrats.

Tangent

Merchan is not the first judge overseeing a case related to the former president who has been subject to threats and Truth Social rants. Judge Arthur Engoron, the New York state court judge who oversaw the former president’s civil fraud trial, received a bomb threat at his home and was sent a letter containing white powder. Trump called Engoron a “Democrat Club-controlled” and “crooked” judge following the more than $350 million fraud judgment.

Key Background

Trump was indicted on 34 felony counts last March—which he pleaded not guilty to—for his role in the “hush money” scheme against Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, following a multi-year investigation from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Daniels alleged she had an affair with Trump in 2006, a claim Trump has repeatedly denied, and then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen paid her to stay silent about the allegations toward the end of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 for federal tax evasion and campaign finance violations related to the Daniels payout, then allegedly received a reimbursement for the payment from Trump. While Trump’s alleged “hush money” payment to Daniels has been the focal point of the former president’s criminal trial, he wasn’t charged with the payment or subsequent reimbursement themselves. Rather, he’s been indicted for falsifying business records to make the reimbursement payments—a scheme prosecutors claim was meant to cover up campaign finance violations in 2016.

Further Reading

Trump’s ‘Hush Money’ Payment Isn’t Illegal In Itself—Here’s Why He’s Actually On Trial (Forbes)

Trump And Stormy Daniels: What To Know About Hush Money Saga That Led To Ex-President’s First Criminal Trial (Forbes)

Everything Stormy Daniels Has Revealed About Her Alleged Donald Trump Affair Ahead Of Hush Money Trial (Forbes)

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