Dem 51
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GOP 49
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...And in Sorta Bad Judgment

As long as we're on the subject of judges, and potential skeletons in their closets, there has been news about Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the Donald Trump criminal case in New York. In a development that should be a surprise to nobody, and that definitely should not be a surprise to Merchan himself, reporters have already figured out that he donated money to the Democratic Party in 2020, including money to the presidential campaign of Joe Biden.

In the judge's defense, accepting employment as a jurist does not mean you promptly give up your right to participate in the political system. Also in the judge's defense, it was a very small amount of money; $15 to Biden and $20 to other Democrats. With those things said, we must ask: What on Earth was he thinking? If you are a judge and you want to participate in the political process, find a way to do it that does not so easily and obviously tie you one of the major political parties. Donate to an activist group that supports animal rights or voting rights or peace. Volunteer for some phone banking. Drive people to the polling place on Election Day. And if you are going to donate money, and thus give opponents an easy way to question your credibility, why would you accept that consequence in exchange for such a tiny sum? The Biden campaign raised and spent over $1 billion. Did Merchan really think that $15 was going to be the difference maker?

Note that, in contrast to Clarence Thomas (see above), what Merchan did is not illegal, and the only way he will be recused is if he voluntarily chooses to remove himself from the case. However, Donald Trump and his allies in Congress and in the media are going to make million-dollar mountains out of this $15 molehill. And that is not entirely unreasonable. Merchan has a reputation for being fair and impartial, but imagine how Democrats would be reacting right now if it was discovered he donated to the Trump campaign. Trump & Co. are going to make this Exhibit A for their arguments about how the process is corrupt, an inside job and a witch hunt. And that, in turn, could help to encourage a violent response if one or more verdicts goes against Trump. So, Merchan really should give strong consideration to recusing himself. (Z)

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