Trump again seeks recusal of judge in hush money criminal trial

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Trump hosts New Hampshire primary election night watch party in Nashua

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Donald Trump is again seeking to get the judge overseeing his April 15 New York criminal trial off the case, arguing the judge's daughter's work for a political consultancy with Democratic clients poses a conflict of interest.

The Republican presidential candidate last year made a similar request for Justice Juan Merchan to recuse himself, but the judge denied the bid after an ethics panel found that his daughter's work did not pose reasonable questions about his impartiality.

In a one-page court filing dated April 1 and made public on Tuesday, the former president's lawyers asked Merchan for permission to file a formal motion for him to recuse himself, arguing the trial would benefit his daughter's firm, Authentic Campaigns, financially.

"It can no longer be ignored that Authentic's commercial interests are benefited by developments in this case," Trump's lawyers wrote.

Neither Authentic nor a spokesperson for the New York state Office of Court Administration immediately responded to requests for comment.

Prosecutors with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office, which charged Trump last year, urged Merchan not to entertain Trump's request.

"There is simply nothing new here that would alter this Court's prior conclusion that nothing about this proceeding will directly benefit Authentic or this Court's family member, let alone this Court," prosecutors wrote in a Tuesday court filing.

Trump is aiming to delay trials in the four criminal cases he faces until after his expected Nov. 5 rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden. He has pleaded not guilty in all cases.

No U.S. President has ever faced a criminal trial.

In the New York case, Trump is facing 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up his former lawyer Michael Cohen's $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels for her silence before the 2016 election about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump.

Trump denies any encounter with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

On Monday, Merchan expanded a gag order restricting Trump's speech about witnesses, court staff, and prosecutors to also cover trial participants' family members.

Trump last week disparaged Merchan's daughter online, calling her a "Rabid Trump Hater."

His lawyers have said the gag order infringes on his right to free speech, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New YorkEditing by Chris Reese and Bill Berkrot)