Donald Trump sought to disqualify the federal judge presiding over his election obstruction case, arguing she’d made negative comments about the former president that “unavoidably taint” his right to a fair trial.
(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump sought to disqualify the federal judge presiding over his election obstruction case, arguing she’d made negative comments about the former president that “unavoidably taint” his right to a fair trial.
Trump had called US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, “biased and unfair” on his Truth Social platform. Monday’s filing marked an escalation of those complaints, but it’s generally difficult for parties to convince a judge to recuse themselves, especially when there isn’t a direct financial conflict or relationship with one of the parties.
Trump’s lawyers quoted comments that Chutkan had made from the bench in separate criminal cases against individuals charged with participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. During those hearings, which were before the indictment of Trump, Chutkan had said that while many of the former president’s supporters had been charged, Trump, among others, had not been.
Trump’s defense team argued these comments created a “perception of prejudgment incompatible with our justice system.”
“The public meaning of this statement is inescapable — President Trump is free, but should not be,” the lawyers wrote.
A spokesperson for Special Counsel John “Jack” Smith’s office declined to comment.
Chutkan, a former public defender, earned an early reputation for handing out tougher sentences in Jan. 6 cases compared with her colleagues. Assigned to Trump’s case through the court’s randomized system, she had said in earlier hearings that she would ensure he would receive the same rights as other defendants.
The case in front of Chutkan is one of four criminal prosecutions Trump is facing, including a similar federal election case in Georgia and two unrelated prosecutions in Florida and New York. He’s pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
In Monday’s filing, Trump’s lawyers asked to reassign the case to another judge in the nation’s capital, but added in a footnote that they also reserved the right to argue later to move the case out of Washington altogether.
In the New York case, Trump unsuccessfully argued for New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan to recuse himself.
(Updated with additional information from the filing and case background.)
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