Attorneys for former president Donald Trump on Monday asked U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to disqualify herself from presiding over his federal election obstruction case, asserting that Chutkan in past cases involving Jan. 6, 2021, riot defendants made statements that give the appearance that she has prejudged Trump’s guilt.
“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, regardless of outcome,” Trump attorney John F. Lauro wrote in a nine-page recusal motion filed before Chutkan.
“The public will reasonably and understandably question whether Judge Chutkan arrived at all of her decisions in this matter impartially,” Trump’s attorneys said, claiming that “the law and the overwhelming public interest in the integrity of this historic proceeding require recusal.”
History of investigations involving Donald Trump
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Trump had foreshadowed Monday’s legal action, posting on his social media platform, “WE WILL BE IMMEDIATELY ASKING FOR RECUSAL OF THIS JUDGE” and seeking to move his case out of Washington three days after pleading not guilty to charges brought by special counsel Jack Smith alleging that while president, Trump plotted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Chutkan is “the Judge of [Smith’s] ‘dreams’ (WHO MUST BE RECUSED!),” Trump added in a post the following day, Aug. 7, although Lauro at the time said no final decision on a recusal motion has been made.
“I think as lawyers we have to be very careful of those issues and handle them with the utmost delicacy,” Lauro said on a podcast with Florida defense attorney David Markus.
Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics professor at New York University School of Law, noted that a recusal motion would be highly unlikely to succeed.
“I understand why Trump would like another judge, and I understand why Trump would like another venue,” said Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics professor at New York University School of Law, “but nothing I’ve heard — including the fact that Judge Chutkan has sentenced harshly other January 6 defendants — would warrant a recusal. … Things such as what is said or done within the four corners of a case before her as a judge cannot be a basis for recusal because she’s doing her job. That’s what judges do.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.