The federal judge overseeing Donald Trump’s federal 2020 election subversion criminal case will not disqualify herself from the matter, rejecting a longshot bid from the former president’s team to remove her from the case.
In her 20-page ruling on Wednesday, Judge Tanya Chutkan spells out her approach to previous US Capitol riot defendants appearing before her and why she mentioned Trump during those hearings.
Chutkan, a Barack Obama appointee and former public defender, has on several times addressed the impact of the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack during sentences for convicted rioters, and has repeatedly exceeded what prosecutors have requested for convicted rioters’ prison sentences.
She has also presided over civil litigation involving January 6, including a forceful rejection of Trump’s attempts to block the House select committee investigating the insurrection from accessing more than 700 pages of records from his White House.
“Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” Chutkan wrote in November 2021.
Trump had argued that previous comments Chutkan made to defendants accused of participating on January 6 – including that some riot defendants had “blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day” – met that legal standard because they made her appear prejudiced against Trump.
In Wednesday’s ruling, Chutkan said that her comments made during the sentencing of two January 6 defendants and cited by Trump’s team as evidence of bias “certainly do not manifest a deep-seated prejudice that would make fair judgment impossible.”
“At the outset, 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.’ And the defense does not cite any instance of the court ever uttering those words or anything similar,” Chutkan wrote.
Trump’s lawyers’ “inferential leap” based on her comments in other criminal cases “is not reasonable,” she wrote.
Chutkan said her statements “arose not, as the defense speculates, from watching the news, but from the sentencing proceedings” in those cases and “directly reflected facts proffered and arguments made by those defendants.”
Special counsel Jack Smith’s team had slammed Trump’s attorneys for taking Chutkan’s comments “out of context in order to manufacture allegations of bias.” Prosecutors wrote in court filings that in both cases flagged by the former president’s attorneys, Chutkan was responding to defendants who minimized their actions on January 6 by casting blame on Trump and other political leaders.
This story has been updated with additional details.