United States District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on Wednesday refused to recuse herself from overseeing the federal case former against President Donald Trump over his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Trump’s attorneys earlier this month filed a motion for Chutkan to recuse herself based on comments she has made at sentencing hearings for multiple January 6 defendants.
For example, Chutkan described the Capitol riot as “an attempt to violently overthrow the government, the legally, lawfully, peacefully elected government by individuals who were mad that their guy lost” during Christine Priola’s October 2022 sentencing.
Chutkan claimed those inside the Capitol did so out of “blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day.”
“The public meaning of this statement is inescapable — President Trump is free, but should not be,” Trump’s attorneys argued in their recusal motion. “As an apparent prejudgment of guilt, these comments are disqualifying standing alone.”
Chutkan also said January 6 defendant Robert Palmer “didn’t like the result, and he didn’t want the transition of power to take place because his guy lost,” during his 2021 sentencing hearing.
However, Chutkan, who had the ultimate decision on whether to recuse herself, disagreed with Trump’s attorneys in her 20-page opinion issued Wednesday.
“The defense interprets the court’s verbal reiteration of Palmer and Priola’s arguments about their relative culpability as “suggest[ing]” a secret “core view” about Defendant’s criminality….That inferential leap is not reasonable in light of the relevant facts, record, and law,” Chutkan wrote.
“The court was legally bound to not only privately consider those arguments, but also to publicly assess them,” she added.
Chutkan also said she never “expressly” stated Trump is to blame for the Capitol riot.
“The court expressly declined to state who, if anyone, it thought should still face charges. It is the defense, not the court, who has assumed that the Defendant belongs in that undefined group,” she added.
DC Judge Tanya Chutkan refuses to recuse –
Admits she has opinions about those uncharged with January 6 offenses.
Denies that includes Trump.
Defies belief, really. pic.twitter.com/l1KSWcxEol
— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) September 28, 2023
Chutkan also seemingly took a shot at Trump’s legal team for filing the recall motion.
“A reasonable person — aware of the statutory requirement that the court address the defendant’s arguments and state its reasons for its sentence — would understand that in making the statements contested here, the court was not issuing vague declarations about third parties’ potential guilt in a hypothetical future case,” Chutkan wrote.
Trump’s spokesperson disagreed with Chutkan’s decision Wednesday, saying Chutkan “already holds an opinion regarding President Trump.”
“Fairness and impartiality are central tenets of our judicial system. Judges must not only be in fact, impartial, but must also appear to be unbiased. Based on her prior statements in other cases that she already holds an opinion regarding President Trump, his legal team believes that Judge Chutkan should have recuse [sic] herself,” the spokesperson said.
The case is United States v. Trump, No. 1:23-cr-257-TSC in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.