Trump ally files complaint about judge who criticized Trump attacks on judiciary

Former U.S. President Donald Trump criminal case, on charges stemming from hush money paid to a porn star, in New York City

By Sarah N. Lynch and Nate Raymond

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A conservative ally of Donald Trump filed a complaint on Tuesday against a U.S. federal judge who in a rare television interview criticized the former president's verbal attacks on the New York judge overseeing Trump's upcoming criminal trial.

Mike Davis, founder of conservative legal advocacy group the Article III Project, said he feared that U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton's criticism of Trump on CNN last week could taint the jury pools for the Republican presidential candidate's four criminal cases in New York, Washington, D.C., Florida and Georgia.

"A federal judge does not have the right to appear on a nationally televised program – watched by prospective jurors – and lambast a criminal defendant for lawfully exercising his constitutional right to criticize a pending criminal proceeding," Davis wrote in a complaint to the Judicial Council of the District of Columbia Circuit.

"Judge Walton should not have made the appearance, and we respectfully urge you to investigate and remedy this ethical violation," he added.

Walton, reached through a law clerk, declined to comment on Tuesday.

Walton, a senior federal judge based in Washington, D.C. appointed by Republican former president George W. Bush, in a March 28 CNN interview called Trump's comments about New York Justice Juan Merchan "disconcerting."

He said it was "particularly problematic" that Trump had targeted Merchan's daughter, and said he is concerned about the increased number of threats that judges have faced in recent years.

Trump on social media has verbally attacked Merchan and his daughter, leading the New York judge on Monday to order him to stop targeting family members of anyone involved in the trial.

Walton noted he has received numerous threats himself after presiding over cases related to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

Walton is not presiding over the criminal case against Trump in Washington for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch in Washington and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)