Former President Donald Trump requested Judge Tanya Chutkan recuse herself from presiding over the federal case against him for alleged interference in the 2020 election, claiming in a new court filing Monday that she should be disqualified for having previously “suggested” Trump be “prosecuted and imprisoned.”
Trump’s lawyers argue in the court filing that even if Chutkan “genuinely intend(s)” to give Trump a fair trial, her past statements suggesting he be prosecuted would “unavoidably taint these proceedings.”
The filing calls on two statements made in 2021 and 2022 by Chutkan during the sentencing of January 6 rioters that Trump’s team argue show an “apparent prejudgement of guilt.”
In one of the statements, Chutkan said the rioters mobbed the Capitol out of “blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day”—which Trump’s team said implies he shouldn’t be free—and in the other statement she said a defendant made a “very good point” in saying the people “who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you … have not been charged.”
Shortly after his indictment, Trump announced he planned to request Chutkan recuse herself in an August 6 Truth Social post in which he said “THERE IS NO WAY I CAN GET A FAIR TRIAL WITH THE JUDGE ‘ASSIGNED’ TO THE RIDICULOUS FREEDOM OF SPEECH/FAIR ELECTIONS CASE.”
Chutkan, a D.C. district court judge, was key in unveiling evidence that was ultimately used against Trump for his role in the January 6 riots and attempts at election interference as she ordered him to release records from his presidency to the House January 6 Select Committee in November 2021.
In her ruling against the former president, who was seeking to claim executive privilege in blocking access to the files, Chutkan said of Trump: “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.”
In August, Trump was charged with four federal crimes by Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith related to his efforts to stay in office despite losing the 2020 election; Trump has since pleaded not guilty. Trump’s wouldn’t be the first January 6 case Chutkan would oversee as she’s handled numerous cases involving rioters and has handed down some of the toughest punishments, according to a June 2022 Associated Press analysis. Chutkan was appointed to the federal bench by former President Barack Obama in 2014, after serving at the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner and working for 11 years as a D.C. public defender, according to her biography on the court’s website.
What To Watch For
Trump’s trial under Chutkan is set to start on March 4, 2024, though Trump has said he will appeal that start date. After the trial date was set, Trump called Chutkan a “biased Trump-hating judge” on Truth Social.