Former President Donald Trump is asking Judge Tanya Chutkan to recuse herself from the 2020 election subversion case against him brought by special counsel Jack Smith.
Trump, in a new court filing Monday, pointed to comments that Chutkan made in cases involving January 6 US Capitol rioters. He argued that there was “little doubt” that reasonable members of the public might “believe she has prejudged both the facts pertinent to this case and President Trump’s alleged culpability.”
“In a highly charged political season, naturally all Americans, and in fact, the entire world, are observing these proceedings closely,” he said. “Only if this trial is administered by a judge who appears entirely impartial could the public ever accept the outcome as justice.”
Chutkan, in response, has asked for the Justice Department prosecutors’ point of view, in a filing due Thursday. Trump will then have the opportunity to reply to those arguments with a filing by Sunday.
Chutkan, a Barack Obama appointee who was randomly assigned to Trump’s case, has long been outspoken about the riot at the Capitol – calling the violence an assault on American democracy and warning of future danger from political violence. She has repeatedly exceeded what prosecutors have requested for convicted rioters’ prison sentences.
The judge has also presided over civil litigation involving January 6, 2021, including a forceful rejection of Trump’s attempts to block the House select committee that investigated January 6 from accessing more than 700 pages of records from his White House.
“Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” Chutkan wrote in that ruling.
Trump’s request that she not oversee the criminal case against him is likely an uphill battle, as it was filed with Chutkan herself.
The first example highlighted by the Trump team comes from an October 2022 sentencing hearing, in which Chutkan said that “the people who mobbed that Capitol were there in fealty, in loyalty, to one man – not to the Constitution. … It’s a blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day.”
And in a December 2021 sentencing hearing, Chutkan told another Capitol riot defendant that “the people who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action and to fight have not been charged.”
She added: “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.”
Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Trump has used this strategy before.
In a sprawling and far-fetched civil lawsuit that Trump brought in Florida against ex-Justice Department officials, Hillary Clinton and other Democratic figures for an alleged RICO conspiracy in the 2016 election, Trump sought the recusal of the judge assigned in that case, because that judge had been appointed by President Bill Clinton. US District Judge Donald Middlebrooks rejected that request last year, but Trump has since revived it.
Trump also previously sought the removal of the judge overseeing the New York criminal case against him related to hush money payments.
Judge Juan Merchan, Trump argued, should recuse himself due to his daughter’s political consulting work, which included in 2020 the Biden campaign and now-Vice President Kamala Harris’ campaign. Merchan denied the request last month.
This story has been updated with additional details.