WASHINGTON — Former United States (US) President Donald Trump filed a motion on Monday (Sept 11) seeking the recusal of the judge who is to preside over his historic trial for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan should step aside because of past statements she has made about the former president that demonstrate bias, Mr Trump’s attorneys said in a court filing.
“Judge Chutkan has, in connection with other cases, suggested that President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned,” they said. “Such statements, made before this case began and without due process, are inherently disqualifying.
“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,” they said.
Legal experts said the unusual recusal motion was unlikely to succeed because it is Ms Chutkan herself who would have to voluntarily agree to step aside.
Ms Chutkan last month set March 4, 2024 for the start of Mr Trump’s trial on charges of conspiring to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
Mr Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, pleaded not guilty to the charges in a court appearance in Washington last month.
In the motion seeking Ms Chutkan’s recusal, Mr Trump’s attorneys cited statements the judge has made at sentencing hearings for participants in the Jan 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters.
At the October 2022 sentencing of a woman for her role in the assault on a joint session of Congress, Ms Chutkan described Jan 6 as “nothing less than an attempt to violently overthrow the government”.
She added, in an apparent reference to Mr Trump, that it was inspired by “blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day”.
“Her comments suggest that she reached a conclusion, before this case, that President Trump is more deserving of a term of imprisonment than the defendant she was sentencing,” Mr Trump’s attorneys said.
“Judge Chutkan should recuse herself from this case and direct the Clerk to randomly assign this matter to another District Judge,” they added.
‘PRESIDENTS ARE NOT KINGS’
Mr Trump has also publicly complained about the judge, calling her “highly partisan” and “very biased and unfair” in comments on his Truth Social platform.
The 61-year-old Chutkan, who was appointed by former Democratic president Barack Obama, has handed down some of the stiffest sentences to participants in the attack on the US Capitol.
Ms Chutkan also has a legal history with Mr Trump — she ruled against him in a November 2021 case, notably declaring that “presidents are not kings”.
Mr Trump is also facing racketeering charges in Georgia for allegedly conspiring to upend the election results in the southern state and a trial in Florida in May 2024 on charges of mishandling top secret government documents. AFP