Trump Attacks Judge’s Daughter After Gag Order in Hush-Money Case

It was an explosive claim from Donald J. Trump, just weeks before his Manhattan criminal trial is set to begin: He assailed the judge’s daughter on Wednesday, saying she had used an image of the former president behind bars as a social media profile picture.

The photo made it “completely impossible for me to get a fair trial,” Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social. He demanded that the judge, Juan M. Merchan, recuse himself.

But there was a problem with his claim: The New York State Court system says the account on X is bogus.

Although the handle once belonged to the judge’s daughter, Loren Merchan, she deleted it about a year ago, a court spokesman said. Someone else — it is unclear who — has since taken it over. Its profile picture is now a childhood portrait of Vice President Kamala Harris.

“The X, formerly Twitter, account being attributed to Judge Merchan’s daughter no longer belongs to her,” said Al Baker, the spokesman for the state’s Office of Court Administration. “It is not linked to her email address, nor has she posted under that screen name since she deleted the account. Rather, it represents the reconstitution, last April, and manipulation of an account she long ago abandoned.”

It is hardly the only online hoax that Mr. Trump has promoted over the years, but unleashing apparently false claims concerning the judge’s daughter just weeks before the trial begins represents an escalation on his part.

It came a day after Justice Merchan imposed a gag order on Mr. Trump, barring him from attacking witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and court staff. Notably, the judge and his family are not included in the gag order.

And Mr. Trump wasted no time attacking the judge, who is a Democrat, and his family: “If the Biased and Conflicted Judge is allowed to stay on this Sham ‘Case,’ it will be another sad example of our Country becoming a Banana Republic,” Mr. Trump wrote in the social media post on Wednesday.

Neither a spokesman for the Trump campaign nor Ms. Merchan immediately returned request for comments on Wednesday evening.

Ms. Merchan has worked as an executive at Authentic, a digital marketing agency that works with Democratic candidates. Mr. Trump’s lawyers last year argued that Justice Merchan should recuse himself, claiming that his daughter stood to benefit financially from his decisions. The judge declined, citing a state advisory committee on judicial ethics, which determined that his impartiality could not “reasonably be questioned.”

The trial, which will begin on April 15, will focus on what prosecutors say was Mr. Trump’s effort to cover up a sex scandal during and after the 2016 presidential campaign. The Manhattan district attorney’s office charged Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

On Monday, Justice Merchan seemingly swept away the last obstacles to an April trial, dismissing an attempt by the defense to delay or even dismiss the case. Mr. Trump would be the first former American president to face trial on criminal charges.

Ms. Merchan is just the latest woman to feel the sting of Mr. Trump’s invective. In his civil fraud trial last year, Mr. Trump took aim at the judge’s principal law clerk, claiming falsely that she was Senator Chuck Schumer’s “girlfriend.”

The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, instituted a limited gag order on Mr. Trump, preventing him from commenting on court staff.

Mr. Trump twice violated the order, resulting in $15,000 in fines.

Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

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