Former President Donald Trump’s defense team filed papers Sunday night in further support of his request that Judge Tanya Chutkan recuse herself in the federal 2020 election conspiracy case brought by special counsel Jack Smith in Washington, D.C. In doing so, Trump lawyers met the Sunday deadline set by Chutkan to formally respond to Smith’s opposition to the request.
Smith, in a filing Friday, argued that Chutkan should remain on the case.
Trump’s lawyers again argued that Chutkan has made disqualifying statements critical of Trump during her handling of the sentencing of two Jan. 6 defendants.
In their latest argument, submitted in D.C. federal court, Trump’s defense argued, “These proceedings are indeed historic. The public interest is not in the perception of a rush to judgment or a show trial contaminated by the appearance of a partial presiding judge…”
Trump’s attorneys have requested Chutkan’s recusal in the former president’s election interference case based on previous statements she made in two separate Capitol riot sentencing hearings. They highlighted her comment to one Capitol riot defendant in October 2022 that the violent attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election came from “blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day.”
They argued that this statement suggests “an apparent prejudgment of guilt.”
But government attorneys denied this was the case and said Judge Chutkan’s remarks were “factually accurate” and “responsive to arguments presented to the court.”
The Trump attorneys also referred to a statement Chutkan made in a hearing about Trump White House records in late-2021, in which she said “A president is not king”… and that Trump “is not President.” Trump’s defense argued that, “The public must have confidence that President Trump’s constitutional rights are being protected by an unbiased judicial officer. No president is a king, but every president is a (US) citizen entitled to the protections and rights guaranteed by the US Constitution.”
Trump’s lawyers are also seeking a formal hearing on this matter.
Ultimately, it is up to Chutkan to decide whether her past statements create the perception of bias. A new judge would be assigned to the case if she recuses. Trump’s attorneys could petition an appeals court to require her to recuse, but such efforts are often not successful. There is no specific timetable for Judge Chutkan to rule on Trump’s request.