A legal battle involving Buzzfeed News and the Fusion GPS Steele dossier has come before a federal judge who was appointed by President Donald Trump, worked on his presidential transition team, and donated to his campaign -- and he is refusing calls to recuse himself from overseeing the case.
U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden, who sits on the bench in Washington, D.C., made two donations to Trump’s presidential campaign totaling $1000 in October 2016 – both coming within three weeks of Election Day, documents filed with the Federal Election Commission show.
McFadden also held a volunteer spot on Trump's transition team, and prior to his judgeship appointment was tapped as Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General.
“Fusion’s argument that I should look beyond the traditional grounds of disqualification to consider President Trump’s alleged political interests proves too much,” McFadden wrote in an opinion. “Such an argument would lead to the disqualification of numerous judges appointed by the sitting president on a wide range of cases.”
But lawyers for Fusion GPS disagree. According their second complaint over the judge's involvement, McFadden's employment prior to taking the bench was with the law firm Baker & McKenzie, where he represented a company connected to Mikhail Fridman of Alfa Group.
Both Alfa Group and Fridman are named in the Steele dossier and the investment firm has its own lawsuit pending against Fusion GPS.
“Federal law requires that judges maintain not only actual impartiality, but also the appearance of impartiality,” one of Fusion GPS’s attorney’s, William W. Taylor, III, wrote in a Motion for Judicial Recusal filed in January. “In this case, the Court will adjudicate a matter that pits the interests of Fusion GPS against the interests not only of the Court’s recent former client, but also against the interests of President Trump, on whose presidential transition this Court volunteered.”
However, McFadden shows no interest in recusal:
“I decline Fusion's invitation to decide its motion based on the alleged connection between the motion and President Trump's political interests,” McFadden wrote in his decision. “The President's connection with me and his interest in this case are simply too tenuous to cause a reasonable observer to question my impartiality."