Trump tries and fails to delay N.Y. criminal trial for a third this week

NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s attorneys failed to persuade an appeals court judge on Wednesday to delay the former president’s New York criminal trial, scheduled to begin next week, by saying the presiding judge was not qualified to oversee the proceedings.

The appeals court judge, Ellen Gesmer, denied Trump’s request shortly after it was argued at an emergency session.

It was the Trump attorneys’ third attempt this week to delay his trial on charges of falsifying business documents to help cover up an affair that allegedly happened a decade before the 2016 election. Trump, the first former president to face criminal prosecution, has been indicted on various charges in three other jurisdictions and has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove argued in the proceeding before Gesmer that New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan should have recused himself. Merchan denied a motion for his recusal in August after seeking the opinion of an advisory committee that guided his decision.

Last week, Trump’s defense filed another motion to Merchan arguing for recusal and citing what Bove called “several new developments” that require Merchan to exit the case.

Merchan has not issued a ruling on that recusal bid.

Prosecutors and an attorney from the courts for Merchan said a delay in the trial was unwarranted.

“Their recusal arguments are completely meritless,” said Steven Wu, an attorney for the district attorney’s office. “The judge rejected them last year and he was right to do so.”

Merchan last year declined to step down from the criminal case after Trump’s attorneys filed a complaint about the judge’s daughter’s profession as a political consultant and the judge’s small contributions to Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign and a progressive group.

Merchan’s daughter is a part owner of a political consulting and marketing company that has worked on campaign materials for the Biden-Harris campaign, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) and other prominent Democrats.

Trump’s attorneys’ recently filed recusal motion cited social media clippings that they argued were proof that Merchan’s daughter’s professional success depended at least in part on how Trump does in court. For that reason, they said, Merchan must recuse himself in the interest of fairness.

“There is no proof, there’s no evidence of [those allegations], and Judge Merchan has gotten an ethics opinion [that said] he can proceed with the trial,” said Lisa Evans, a courts lawyer speaking on the judge’s behalf at the appeals court.

Judges in New York state are supposed to bow out of situations in which there may be an appearance of favoritism.

Gesmer also declined to grant a trial delay based on Trump’s inability to raise presidential-immunity-related objections at the trial or because Merchan is not permitting Trump’s legal team to file motions as quickly as it wishes to, which it believes will continue once the trial begins.

Jury selection in Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial is scheduled to start Monday, marking the first such trial of a former U.S. president. He is the presumptive Republican nominee in the November election.

On Tuesday, a different New York appeals court judge denied Trump’s request to delay the trial because a gag order imposed on him by Merchan remained in effect.

Yet another appeals court judge on Monday rejected Trump’s attempt to delay the trial while he pursued an appeal to determine whether a change of venue is necessary, citing Manhattan’s liberal leanings.

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with a $130,000 payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, made shortly before the 2016 election. Prosecutors have said the payment was intended to keep her quiet about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump years earlier.

Prosecutors said Trump’s reimbursements to then-attorney Michael Cohen, who made the payment to Daniels, were illegally documented as legal fees despite being carried out to support Trump’s campaign. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

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