Judge Juan Merchan accused of stopping Donald Trump from going to Barron’s graduation

Donald Trump and his family have accused the judge in his hush money trial of being “heartless”, claiming he’s stopping the former US president from attending his youngest son’s high school graduation.

Barron Trump, 18, will graduate on May 17. As jury selection began in Mr Trump’s first criminal trial on Monday, New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan said he had received a request from the former president’s legal team, asking for court not to sit on that day.

Judge Merchan has not yet ruled on the request. He told court it would depend “on if we are on time and where we are in the trial”.

Mr Trump, 77, is accused of falsifying business records in a scheme to cover up his alleged affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.

He denies that any such affair took place. His former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has already served time in prison over his role in the alleged scheme.

As the trial is criminal, Mr Trump is required to attend court – an inconvenience that will largely prevent him from campaigning for the presidency for weeks on end.

While, as mentioned, Judge Merchan has not yet ruled on the request to attend Barron’s graduation, Mr Trump seems less than optimistic.

“My son is graduating from high school, and it looks like the judge will not let me go to the graduation of my son, who’s worked very, very hard, and he is a great student,” he told the media after emerging from the courtroom on Monday.

“I’m very proud that he did so well, and I was looking forward for years to have his graduation with his mother and father there.

“It looks like the judge isn’t going to allow me to escape this scam. It’s a scam trial.”

Mr Trump has four older children: Donald Jr, Ivanka, Eric and Tiffany. It is unclear how many of their high school graduations, if any, he attended.

He continued to fume about the situation with Baron after the day in court on his social media platform, Truth Social.

“Who will explain for me, to my wonderful son, Barron, who is a GREAT student at a fantastic School, that his Dad will likely not be allowed to attend his Graduation Ceremony, something that we have been talking about for years, because a seriously Conflicted and Corrupt New York State Judge wants me in Criminal Court on a bogus ‘Biden Case’?” the former president wrote.

“The Judge, Juan Merchan, is preventing me from proudly attending my son’s Graduation. Seems very unfair, doesn’t it? But this whole event is unfair.”

One of Mr Trump’s other sons, 40-year-old Eric, agreed with his father.

“Judge Merchan is truly heartless in not letting a father attend his son’s graduation,” Eric wrote on social media.

One of Mr Trump’s lawyers, Alina Habba, slammed Judge Merchan on Fox News.

“This is political. It’s election interference,” Ms Habba said.

“You’re not even allowing a father, never mind a former president, but a father, to attend his son’s graduation?”

Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake, an outspoken supporter of Mr Trump, said she was “heartbroken for President Trump and Barron”.

“All the hard work our kids put into graduating, and President Trump is being robbed of getting to experience his son’s high school graduation ceremony,” Ms Lake said.

“This corrupt judge is heartless and cruel.”

Judge Merchan will rule on the matter closer to the date.

Trump denies he fell asleep in court

As he walked into the Manhattan courtroom on Monday, Mr Trump railed against the proceedings, saying the case was “nonsense” and an “outrage”.

“This is an assault on America, nothing like this has ever happened before, there’s never been anything like it,” he said.

“Every legal scholar said this case is nonsense, it should have never been brought.”

Referring to himself in the third person, he then claimed that even “people that don’t necessarily like Donald Trump” have said that it was an “outrage”.

“This is political persecution, this is a persecution like never before, nobody has ever seen anything like it,” he insisted.

Prosecutors maintain Mr Trump has a valid case to answer.

“Good morning Mr Trump,” Judge Juan Merchan said to the defendant in the courtroom, where the Republican sat with hunched shoulders and a stern expression.

He warned Mr Trump – as every defendant is warned – that if he interrupted proceedings he could be jailed while the case takes place.

The first order of business is jury selection. Given the notoriety of the case and its famous defendant, it could take as long as two weeks for defence lawyers and prosecutors to agree on the panel of 12 jurors from a pool of 500. Around 100 were in court on Monday, answering questions on Mr Trump.

It’s a laborious process, and The New York Times, whose senior reporter Maggie Haberman was in court, suggested Mr Trump at one point stopped paying attention.

“Trump appears to be sleeping. His head keeps dropping down and his mouth goes slack,” Ms Haberman reported.

He then “apparently jolted back awake” upon discovering notes his lawyer had passed to him.

The Trump campaign has said he was not, in fact, sleeping.

The so-called hush money affair is one of four criminal cases hanging over Mr Trump.

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