NEW YORK (NewsNation) — Former President Donald Trump will walk into Justice Juan Merchan’s courtroom to face criminal charges in the historic case of the first former U.S. president to be charged with a crime.
While it’s a first for the former president, the veteran judge is no stranger to high-profile prosecutions, particularly those involving Trump and his associates.
Trump was indicted last Thursday by a Manhattan grand jury in connection to a hush-money payment made to adult film actor Stormy Daniels in 2016. He’s denied any wrongdoing and is expected to be arraigned on Tuesday.
Susan Necheles, one of Trump’s attorneys, told Reuters the former president will plead not guilty.
On Friday, the former president lashed out against the judge on his Truth Social platform, alleging Merchan hates him and was handpicked by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for that reason.
“The Judge ‘assigned’ to my Witch Hunt Case, a ‘Case’ that has NEVER BEEN CHARGED BEFORE, HATES ME,” wrote Trump, who has launched a campaign to regain the presidency in 2024. “He strong armed Allen, which a judge is not allowed to do, & treated my companies, which didn’t ‘plead,’ VICIOUSLY.”
Joe Tacopina, a Trump attorney, said Sunday that he doesn’t believe Merchan is biased but added that his team would let this process play out and pursue legal options, if needed, because Trump’s team vehemently believes this is all political persecution or a “witch hunt,” as Trump had called it.
“Somebody is lashing out because he’s the victim, I have no reason to believe this judge is biased,” Tacopina told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I have not been before him on this matter. So I — we have to let this process play out.”
Last year, Merchan oversaw a criminal trial of the Trump Organization that ended with the real estate company convicted by a jury of tax fraud and hit with fines, while one of its longtime executives, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded guilty and was sent to jail.
Merchan sentenced the Trump Organization to pay $1.6 million after jurors convicted the company in December. The judge also sentenced Allen Weisselberg, who long served as an executive under Trump but was the prosecution’s star witness in the trial, to five months of incarceration.
Merchan is also presiding over a criminal case involving former Trump campaign and White House adviser Steve Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, conspiracy and fraud related to a nonprofit that raised funds for building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.
Cyrus Vance, the former Manhattan district attorney, said Merchan is experienced and he’s going to want to set a firm trial date.
As there are many questions about whether this will go to trial before Election Day 2024, Vance said he doesn’t think Trump is doing himself any favors by “making more enemies in the courthouse than he needs to.”
Merchan has been an acting New York Supreme Court judge since 2009. He has been a Manhattan criminal court judge since 2009 after prior stints on the state’s Court of Claims, which hears cases against the state and its agencies, and family court in the Bronx.
He was born in Colombia, but grew up in New York City’s Queens borough, like Trump.
Reuters contributed to this story.