FIRST ON FOX: Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., in a statement to Fox News Digital, called on a New York City judge to rescue himself from former President Trump’s upcoming April 15 hush-money criminal trial, while also hammering the judge’s “Democrat political operative” daughter, who the third top-ranking House Republican accuses of financially benefiting from the case. 

“Democrat Manhattan Judge Juan Merchan, who donated to Biden’s campaign and another anti-Trump cause in 2020, has a clear judicial bias against President Trump,” Stefanik, the House Republican Conference chair, said late Tuesday. “Merchan’s adult daughter is a Democrat political operative who has financially benefited from her father’s unprecedented trial of President Trump.” 

“When Trump raised this additional evidence of Judge Merchan’s bias, Merchan retaliated by expanding his unconstitutional gag order on Trump,” Stefanik added. “The law and common sense absolutely requires Judge Merchan’s recusal from President Trump’s trial. We cannot allow a biased, far-left activist judge to strip the American people of our constitutional right to select [our] own leaders.”

Merchan on Monday amended a week-old gag order banning Trump from making public statements about witnesses, jurors and others connected with the case after the presumptive Republican presidential nominee lashed out at Merchan’s adult daughter, Democratic political consultant Loren Merchan, in several posts on his Truth Social platform last week.

NEW YORK COURT EXPANDS GAG ORDER AGAINST TRUMP DAYS AFTER FIERY RANT THAT NAMED JUDGE’S DAUGHTER

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. 

In a pre-motion letter on Monday, Trump’s attorneys 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.” The letter states that the judge’s daughter is an executive and partner at Authentic Campaigns, Inc., which as recently as February and March 2024, “has used social media to market its connections to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris while deriding President Trump.” 

“Authentic and Your Honor’s daughter are making money by supporting the creation and dissemination of campaign advocacy for President Trump’s opponent, political rivals, and the Democratic party,” it says.

Fox News Digital reached out to Authentic Campaigns for comment on the claims made regarding Loren Merchan, but they did not immediately respond.

Under the revised gag order, the judge declared his own family and the family of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg off limits, though Trump is still free to criticize Juan Merchan and Bragg.

“This pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose,” Merchan wrote. “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.” The judge continued, “It is no longer just a mere possibility or a reasonable likelihood 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.”

A violation could result in Trump being held in contempt of court, fined or even jailed, according to The Associated Press. 

The day after the original gag order was issued last week, Trump suggested on Truth Social that Merchan’s rulings were swayed by his daughter’s political consulting interests. Trump wrote that 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.’”

In the posts, President Biden’s predecessor also claimed that Loren Merchan had posted a photo on social media showing him behind bars. 

MSNBC HOST ANGRILY THROWS HER SCRIPT DURING SHOW IN REACTION TO TRUMP CALLING OUT JUDGE’S DAUGHTER

Trump did not link to the purported photo, but an X account under the name “LM” showed a photo illustration of an imprisoned Trump as its profile picture last week, according to the AP. It was later changed to an image of Vice President Kamala Harris as a child. Loren Merchan’s consulting firm had linked to that account in its social media posts in past years, but it is now private with no posts displayed and states that it joined the platform in April 2023. Al Baker, a spokesperson for New York’s state court system, said Loren Merchan later deleted the account and that it no longer belongs to her. 

Usernames on X can be taken over by other users after they’re deleted.

Manhattan district attorney alvin bragg

Trump’s hush-money case, one of four criminal cases against him and the first scheduled to go to trial during the 2024 election cycle, centers on allegations that he falsely logged payments to his former lawyer Michael Cohen as legal fees when they were for Cohen’s work covering up negative stories about Trump during the 2016 campaign. 

That allegedly included $130,000 Cohen paid porn actor Stormy Daniels on Trump’s behalf so that she wouldn’t publicize her claim of a sexual encounter with him years earlier. 

Trump pleaded not guilty last April to 34 counts of falsifying business records, a felony punishable by up to four years in prison, though there is no guarantee that a conviction would result in jail time. He denies having sex with Daniels and his lawyers have said that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses, not part of any cover-up.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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