According to APNews, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has announced her decision not to recuse herself from the 2020 election interference case involving former President Donald Trump in Washington. This decision comes in response to Trump’s claims that her previous comments raised doubts about her impartiality.
Chutkan, appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama and randomly assigned to Trump’s case, explained in her written decision that she sees no valid reason to step aside. The case, scheduled for trial in March, accuses Trump of unlawfully scheming to overturn his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
Recusal requests in legal proceedings carry a high threshold, and legal experts widely viewed Trump’s request as a long shot aimed at casting doubt on the legitimacy of the case, potentially straining the relationship between the judge and the defense.
At the heart of Trump’s request for recusal were statements Chutkan made during sentencing hearings for participants in the January 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot. Trump’s defense argued that these statements suggested a bias against him, implying that Trump deserved prosecution and accountability. However, Chutkan vehemently contested these characterizations, clarifying that she had never taken the position that “former President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned” and had never uttered such words or anything similar.
This marks the second unsuccessful attempt by Trump to have a judge removed from one of his criminal cases. Judge Juan Manuel Merchan, overseeing Trump’s New York hush money criminal case, also rejected a similar request for recusal, affirming his confidence in his ability to be fair and impartial.
Chutkan has garnered attention for her tough stance on defendants charged in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building. Trump, who is an early front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has criticized her on social media, alleging that the prosecution is politically motivated.
Federal special counsel Jack Smith’s team supported Chutkan’s position, stating that there was no valid basis for her removal from the case. They emphasized that Chutkan had never asserted that Trump was legally or morally responsible for the events of January 6 or that he deserved punishment.
In her decision, Chutkan underscored that recusal should only occur when warranted, and judges should not step aside “without cause,” as she believed Trump’s lawyers were requesting her to do.
Additionally, Chutkan is considering a request from Smith’s team for a limited gag order that would restrict Trump from making “inflammatory” and “intimidating” comments about witnesses, lawyers, and others involved in the case. Trump’s legal team has objected to this request.