Trump files motion demanding judge in Jan 6 case recuse herself

Attorneys for former President Donald Trump have filed a motion asking that federal district court judge Tanya Chutkan recuse herself from his Jan 6 criminal case.

The motion states that Judge Chutkan has said in connection with other cases that Mr Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned and argues that this disqualifies her from the case.

The attorneys asked the federal judge, who is presiding over his election subversion case in Washington, to recuse herself, saying her past public statements about the former president call into question whether she can be fair. Judge Chutkan is a former assistant public defender who was nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama. She will rule on the motion herself.

Ms Chutkan has stood out and taken flack from the far right for being one of the DC-based judges involved in sentencings of Jan 6 defendants. An analysis from the Associated Press last month found that she had met or exceeded prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations in 19 out of 38 of the Jan 6 cases which have gone to her so far for sentencing.

Her past work on those prosecutions is precisely what led to the Trump team’s motion for recusal on Monday. In one October 2022 instance during sentencing, Judge Chutkan wrote of a Jan 6 defendant: She retained “blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day”.

That expressed sentiment is being cast by the Trump team as a prejudgement of guilt in the president’s case — though, notably, a jury will actually make that call in the end, not a judge. The former president’s attorneys called her words “inherently disqualifiying” on Monday, while Mr Trump himself has attacked her as a supposed Democratic plant for months.

”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,” Mr Trump’s attorneys wrote.

Republican Trump loyalists like Lindsey Graham in the Senate have offered that same criticism, though many of them (including Mr Graham) voted for her confirmation under the Obama presidency. They have pledged to purge the judiciary of supposed political actors — likely meaning anyone who disagrees with their views of Mr Trump — should he or another Republican win in 2024.

“The judge in this case hates Trump,” Mr Graham said in August. “You can convict Trump of kidnapping Lindbergh’s baby in D.C.”

He continued: “You need to have a change of venue. We need a new judge. And we need to win in 2024 to stop this crazy crap.”