Prosecutors collaborating with Special Counsel Jack Smith strongly urged U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on Thursday to reject a request made by Donald Trump’s legal team, which sought her disqualification from his federal election obstruction case.
The prosecutors contended that Trump’s lawyers had selectively taken her remarks out of context and incorrectly applied the law to assert that she displayed bias against him.
“The defendant has failed to identify anything approaching the clear and convincing
evidence necessary to overcome the presumption of impartiality,” the Special Counsel’s office wrote. “Instead, he has relied on suggestion and innuendo to insinuate something sinister in the Court simply doing its job by addressing sentencing arguments. The Court’s comments, when viewed in context by ‘a fully informed third-party observer,’ do not remotely ‘display a deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible’. The Court thus has a duty not to recuse itself from this case and should
deny the defendant’s motion.”
The government’s response in opposition to Judge Chutkan’s recusal was signed off on by Special Counsel Jack Smith.
Trump’s defense, on the other hand, filed a recusal request on Monday, alleging that the experienced judge seemed to have already formed an opinion about the former president’s guilt. They pointed to her comments during the sentencing of two defendants involved in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, where she observed that Trump and other leaders who claimed the election was fraudulent had not faced criminal charges.
However, prosecutors countered with a late-night court filing, asserting that Chutkan’s remarks were a reasonable response to arguments made by numerous Capitol attack defendants. These defendants argued that they deserved leniency because they were influenced by, or less culpable than, individuals who had not been held accountable, including Trump.
“The Court’s statements addressing this sentencing mitigation argument were factually accurate, responsive to arguments presented to the Court, and evidenced no improper bias or prejudgment of the current case,” senior assistant special counsels Molly Gaston and Thomas Windom wrote. Far from presenting clear and convincing evidence of prejudice, Trump’s defense was relying on “suggestion and innuendo to insinuate something sinister in the Court simply doing its job by addressing sentencing arguments,” they wrote.
Lauro argued that judges must recuse themselves in any case where there is a reasonable doubt about impartiality and that the judge’s statements suggest “an apparent preconceived notion of guilt.”
“The people who may be the people who planned this and funded it and encouraged it haven’t been charged,” Chutkan said. “The issue of who has or has not been charged is not before me. I don’t have any influence on that. I have my opinions, but they are not relevant.”
In October, she said that the J6 protesters “were there in fealty, in loyalty, to one man — not to the Constitution,” then added, “It’s a blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day.”
The defense’s motion came after Chutkan scheduled a trial date for Trump on March 4. Trump had previously pleaded not guilty to a four-count indictment accusing him of illegally conspiring to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
In their recusal motion, Trump’s attorney, John F. Lauro, argued that Chutkan’s comments “unavoidably taint” her handling of the case and that “the law and the overwhelming public interest in the integrity of this historic proceeding require recusal.”
Lauro emphasized in the recusal motion that even if Chutkan genuinely believed she could provide Trump with a fair trial, the “public will reasonably and understandably question whether Judge Chutkan arrived at all of her decisions in this matter impartially.”
Republicans earlier blasted Judge Chutkan for setting a trial date of March 4, 2024, for former President Donald Trump, which is one day ahead of Super Tuesday.
Judge Chutkan has also controversially compared the January 6 riots with the deadly terror attack of 9/11, which killed approximately three thousand Americans.