Trump blasts judge set to preside over arraignment
New York, Mar 31 (EFE).- Donald Trump on Friday denounced as biased the judge who will preside over his arraignment in New York on charges connected with hush money payments made during his 2016 presidential campaign to two women who claimed to have had extramarital affairs with the real estate mogul.
Trump, who denies the alleged affairs, spoke out a day after learning that a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg voted to make him the first sitting or former president of the United States to be charged with a crime.
“The Judge ‘assigned’ to my Witch Hunt Case, a ‘Case’ that has NEVER BEEN CHARGED BEFORE, HATES ME,” the former president said in a post on his Truth Social platform.
“His name is Juan Manuel Marchan (sic), was hand picked by Bragg & the Prosecutors, & is the same person who ‘railroaded’ my 75 year old former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, to take a “plea” deal (Plead GUILTY, even if you are not, 90 DAYS, fight us in Court, 10 years (life!) in jail,” Trump wrote.
It was acting New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan who presided over the case that saw erstwhile Trump Organization finance chief Weisselberg agree to plead guilty to tax fraud and accept five months in jail rather than risk a jury verdict that could have seen him sentenced to 15 years behind bars.
A jury subsequently convicted the Trump Organization and Merchan imposed a $1.6 million fine.
“He (Merchan) strong armed Allen, which a judge is not allowed to do, & treated my companies, which didn’t ‘plead,’ VICIOUSLY. APPEALING!,” Trump added, though there is no indication that his attorneys have filed a motion asking for a different judge.
News of the indictment came less than a week after the first rally of Trump’s bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and 12 days after he published a social media post anticipating his arrest and calling for protests.
The indictment, which was handed down in the context of an investigation of alleged payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, will not be unsealed until the arraignment, tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday, but sources have told US media outlets that it includes around 30 counts.
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen said he paid Daniels $130,000 for her silence.
In the case of McDougal, then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, a close friend of Trump, paid her for the story and then buried it, a practice known as “catch and kill.”
While hush money is not in itself illegal, the payments might be construed as illegal contributions to Trump’s presidential campaign.
Trump, 76, is expected to fly from his Florida mansion to New York next Monday.
The ex-president’s US Secret Service detail will accompany him to the Manhattan DA’s Office, which has its own detective squad to handle the fingerprinting and mug shots, before going directly to the courthouse.
Because the offenses in the indictment don’t involve violence, Trump will be released on his own recognizance.
Media reported weeks ago that the New York Police Department had already begun contingency planning for such an eventuality amid fears of possible disturbances at the courthouse involving supporters and opponents of the former president.
One of his most vocal backers in Congress, Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, said that she will be in New York for the arraignment.
Thursday’s development came as something as a surprise as the grand jury was due to adjourn for a month, leading most observers to expect that a decision on indicting Trump would not come before late April.
Trump is also the subject of criminal investigations in Georgia and Washington, DC, in connection with his attempts to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
And the Justice Department named a special counsel to look into the classified documents found last year at Trump’s Florida residence.