Trump seeks removal of federal judge from D.C. elections case

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a South Dakota Republican party rally in Rapid City, South Dakota, U.S. September 8, 2023. 

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump on Monday asked Judge Tanya Chutkan to remove herself from his criminal case for trying to reverse his 2020 national election loss, citing “disqualifying” statements she made while sentencing two people for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

Trump’s lawyers said Chutkan’s statements would “taint” his right to a fair trial in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

“Judge Chutkan has, in connection with other cases, suggested that President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned,” the lawyers wrote in their motion asking the judge to recuse herself.

“Such statements, made before this case began and without due process, are inherently disqualifying,” they wrote.

Chutkan will decide whether to recuse herself in the case, which is being prosecuted by the office of special counsel Jack Smith.

Last month, the judge scheduled Trump’s trial to begin March 4, 2024.

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Trump has previously railed against Chutkan over some of the same statements his lawyers cited in their recusal motion.

On his Truth Social site last month, he said Chutkan “obviously wants me behind bars,” pointing to her remarks from an October sentencing hearing for Christine Priola.

Priola is one of the hundreds of people to face criminal charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot by a mob of Trump supporters.

During Priola’s sentencing, Chutkan said, “The people who mobbed that Capitol were there in fealty, in loyalty, to one man.”

“It’s a blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day,” Chutkan added.

Trump’s attorney referenced those statements in Monday’s filing, arguing that “the public meaning of this statement is inescapable — President Trump is free, but should not be.”

They also cited comments Chutkan made to the Jan. 6 defendant Robert Palmer when she sentenced him in 2021.

“Mr. Palmer — you have made a very good point, one that has been made before — that the people who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action and to fight have not been charged,” Chutkan said.

The Republican separately is charged in state court in Atlanta with conspiracy and other crimes related to his attempt to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory over him in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.

Trump also is charged in federal court in Florida with crimes related to his retention of classified government records after he left the White House. And he is charged in New York state court in Manhattan with allegedly falsifying business records related to a 2016 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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