JD Vance Calls for Federal Investigation into Judge Juan Merchan

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) is calling for a federal investigation into Justice Juan Merchan, arguing he deprived former President Donald Trump of First Amendment rights in the Manhattan business records trial.

Vance, who is reportedly in contention to be Trump’s running mate, penned a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday, calling for a probe into Merchan due to potential violations of sections 241 and 242 of Title 18.

“These statutes would seem to have quite a lot to say about the conduct of Juan Merchan, the New York trial judge and Democratic political donor who has set up a kangaroo court for Donald Trump in Manhattan,” he wrote.

The Department of Justice notes that Section 242 “makes it a crime for someone acting under color of law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

“It is not necessary that the offense be motivated by racial bias or by any other animus,” it adds.

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) speaks at a press conference across the street from the Manhattan criminal court on May 13, 2024, in New York. (Stefan Jeremiah/AP)

Vance cites the sweeping gag order Merchan has imposed on Trump in the trial as a potential violation of this section.

The order prevents him from publicly discussing witnesses regarding their participation in the trial or investigation. This includes Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen. It also bars him from speaking publicly about District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s staff or the court’s staff, family members of either staff, and counsel in the case other than Bragg “if those statements are made with the intent to materially interfere with, or to cause others to materially interfere with, counsel’s or staffs work in this criminal case.”

Vance said Merchan has placed this order “on the protected speech of a former president who is now leading presidential polling of the next election.”

Trump currently leads President Joe Biden 47.5 percent to 46.4 percent in the RealClearPolling average as of Wednesday.

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“On Merchan’s orders, a Republican presidential candidate has been made powerless to question the credibility of the witnesses testifying against him, the motivations of the prosecutors pursuing him, or the impartiality of the apparently conflicted judge fining him,” he added.

Vance wrote this “would be disfavored in best of circumstances” and cited late Supreme Court Justice William Brennan Jr. and other liberal justices’ previous denunciations of gag orders

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The senator argued that Merchan has “done his best” to also “deprive” Trump of an impartial jury and that the judge has been “shameless” regarding the “admission and exclusion of evidence.” According to Vance:

Merchan has not been content to deprive President Trump of only his First Amendment rights, either. As a criminal defendant, President Trump is entitled to a fair trial by an impartial jury… — Merchan has done his best to deprive Trump of both. During jury selection, Merchan refused to dismiss prospective jurors with obvious bias. One had scoffed on social media that “Republicans… [were] projected to pick up 70 seats in prison.”… Another posted a video on social media showing her participation in an anti-Trump street demonstration… But Merchan was willing to impanel them anyway, forcing President Trump’s attorneys to burn critical peremptory strikes…

When it comes to the admission and exclusion of evidence, Merchan has been just as shameless. He has bent over backwards to allow the prosecution to introduce whatever evidence it wants, e.g., by allowing a prosecution witness to testify at length about the alleged details of an unproven sexual episode with no relevance to the underlying charges… But he has taken a strong hand against defense evidence at every opportunity.

Vance pointed to “a possible conspiracy under Section 241” of Title 18, adding that “there are many likely coconspirators to consider,” including Merchan’s daughter, Loren Merchan, Bragg, and other prosecutors.

The senator noted that Loren Merchan is a “fundraiser for Democratic officials and organizations and she helped her clients raise $93 million from donors during Trump’s trial in New York, partly by invoking the case and smearing the defendant in solicitation emails.”

He added that Bragg and his prosecutors, Matthew Colangelo and Christopher Conroy, have repeatedly requested Merchan to “deprive Trump of his First Amendment rights.”

Vance requested a response from Garland by June 28 regarding whether or not he would open an investigation. If he chooses not, the senator asks that he issue a document-retention request that would enable a future administration to open the case.

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