Former President Donald Trump has requested the removal of U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan from his election interference case, citing comments she made during the sentencing of individuals involved in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack. Trump’s legal team argued that Chutkan’s remarks indicated her belief that he should be tried and imprisoned. The former president’s request was made on Monday, prompting a response from the Justice Department.
The key issue revolves around comments made by Judge Chutkan in December 2021 and October 2022. In one instance, she stated that an attempt to violently overthrow the government stemmed from “blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day.” In another, she expressed the view that while rioters were facing imprisonment, “the architects of that horrific event will likely never be charged.”
However, government prosecutors argued that these comments did not demonstrate bias against Trump but were responses to leniency pleas from defendants who sought to shift blame onto others for their actions. According to the prosecutors, Chutkan’s comments were not centered on Trump but rather on the rejection of pleas for leniency, as the defendants were deemed to have acted of their own volition.
Judge Chutkan has not yet ruled on Trump’s request but has called for arguments from both sides. The former president’s legal team has been given two days to respond to the government’s position.
In their request, Trump’s lawyers argued that Chutkan’s previous comments, which suggested Trump’s involvement in inciting violence and the need for his imprisonment, should disqualify her from presiding over his case. They contended that these statements were inherently disqualifying as they were made before due process began.
The federal election interference case is one of four criminal cases that Trump currently faces. It includes charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States by attempting to overturn the 2020 election and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding of Congress. Trump has pleaded not guilty to these charges.
Trump’s recent criticism of Judge Chutkan and Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith on social media has raised concerns about the potential influence on the jury pool in his case. Judge Chutkan emphasized the importance of ensuring an impartial jury pool and the orderly administration of justice during a hearing in August.
As this legal battle continues, the question of whether Judge Chutkan will remain assigned to Trump’s election interference case remains pending.