Former US President Donald Trump has filed a motion to disqualify the judge who is presiding over one of the criminal cases against him for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. Trump claims that the judge, Tanya Chutkan, has shown bias and prejudice against him in her previous statements and rulings.
Trump Accuses Judge of Impartiality
Trump, who is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, argued in a court filing that Chutkan’s prior statements appearing to refer to his role in influencing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters raise questions about her impartiality in the case. The court filing cites a remark Chutkan made at a 2022 sentencing hearing for a Capitol riot defendant in which she suggested that the rioter was motivated by “blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day,” after some defendants argued they thought they were doing what Trump wanted.
Trump’s lawyers argued that the comment indicated the judge’s belief that Trump “should be prosecuted and imprisoned.” They also cited other instances where Chutkan ruled against Trump or made negative comments about him or his administration.
“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’s lawyers wrote.
Trump Faces Multiple Criminal Charges
Trump has been charged by US Special Counsel Jack Smith with four felony counts for allegedly plotting to subvert the results of the 2020 election. That is one of four criminal cases he faces as he runs for the Republican nomination in 2024. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The Washington indictment does not specifically charge Trump for the Jan. 6 attack, but alleges that he exploited the riot in an attempt to delay Congress’ certification of his defeat by Democrat Joe Biden. The indictment also accuses Trump of pressuring state officials, such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to change or falsify the vote counts in his favor.
Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has called the investigations a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.” He has also claimed that he won the 2020 election by a “landslide” and that it was stolen from him by widespread fraud and irregularities.
Trump Seeks Change of Venue and Recusal of Judge
Trump has frequently criticized Chutkan on his social media site since she was randomly assigned to preside over the election case in Washington federal court. Chutkan, who was nominated by former Democratic President Barack Obama, ruled against Trump in 2021 in a civil case he brought attempting to shield his White House records from the US House committee that investigated the Capitol attack.
Chutkan set a trial date in the case for March 2024 over the objections of Trump and his lawyers, who sought to push the proceeding back to 2026. The judge also previously warned Trump about attempting to influence potential witnesses in the case.
Trump said last month he planned to seek Chutkan’s recusal as well as a change of venue for the case. He argued that he could not get a fair trial in Washington, where he said most of the jurors would be Democrats who hate him. He suggested that the case should be moved to another district, such as Florida, where he resides and has more support.
Chutkan has not yet responded to Trump’s motion to disqualify her. She will have to decide whether to recuse herself or refer the matter to another judge for review.