Judge denies Trump’s request to recuse herself in DC election subversion case

WASHINGTON — U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Tuesday denied former President Donald Trump’s request to recuse herself in the 2020 election subversion case in Washington, D.C., The Associated Press reported.

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Chutkan’s assignment to the case came in a random draw, according to The Washington Post.

In her 20-page opinion, Chutkan, who is a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, wrote that while recusal motions served an important purpose in the legal system, she added that “justice also demands that judges not recuse without cause.”

“Motions for recusal could also be wrongfully deployed as a form of ‘judge shopping,’” Chutkan wrote.

Chutkan also wrote that “a reasonable person ... would understand that in making the statements contested here, the court was not issuing vague declarations about third parties’ potential guilt in a hypothetical future case,” The Washington Post reported.

“Instead, it was fulfilling its duty to expressly evaluate the defendants’ arguments that their sentences should be reduced because other individuals whom they believed were associated with the events of January 6 had not been prosecuted.”

Trump’s defense attorneys cited statements Chutkan had made in two sentencing hearings of participants in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, the AP reported. The attorneys stated that Chutkan appeared to suggest in her statements that Trump deserved to be prosecuted and held accountable. They said Chutkan’s comments suggested a bias against him that could taint the proceedings.

In October 2022, Chutkan referenced Trump when she told a defendant that he and others at the Capitol “were there in fealty, in loyalty, to one man -- not to the Constitution,” the Post reported.

“It’s a blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day,” Chutkan stated at the time.

“Although Judge Chutkan may genuinely intend to give President Trump a fair trial -- and may believe that she can do so -- her public statements unavoidably taint these proceedings,” Trump’s attorney, John F. Lauro, wrote in the recusal motion two weeks ago, according to the newspaper.

In her denial, Chutkan objected to the defense’s claims.

“It bears noting that the court has never taken the position the defense ascribes to it: that former ‘President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned,’” Chutkan wrote. “And the defense does not cite any instance of the court ever uttering those words or anything similar.”

“This court has from the beginning repeated its commitment “to ensure the orderly administration of justice in this case as (in) any other case,” the judge wrote. “That commitment echoes the court’s solemn oath to ‘administer justice without respect to persons,’ to ‘do equal right to the poor and to the rich,’ and to ‘faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties . . . under the Constitution and laws of the United States.’

“Based on its review of the law, facts, and record, the court concludes that a reasonable observer would not doubt its ability to uphold that promise in this case.”

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team criticized Trump’s attorneys for taking Chutkan’s comments “out of context in order to manufacture allegations of bias,” CNN reported.

Prosecutors wrote in court filings that in both cases referenced by Trump’s attorneys, Chutkan was responding to defendants who minimized their actions on Jan. 6, 2021, by putting the blame on the former president and other political leaders, according to the news outlet.

Trump’s attorneys can appeal, but the standard for a federal appeals court or the Supreme Court to review Chutkan’s ruling is high, the Post reported. A defendant must provide “clear and indisputable” proof that a judge has failed his or her duty.

Chutkan, 61, was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in June 2014 by then-President Barack Obama, the Post reported. The Senate approved her appointment by a 95-0 vote, according to Target Wire Services in a 2014 dispatch.

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