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Judge rejects Trump’s effort to have her recused from his federal election interference case

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — A district judge has denied former President Donald Trump’s effort to have her recuse herself from presiding over his federal election interference case.

Washington, D.C., District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected the argument from Trump’s legal team regarding statements she made during her sentencing of pro-Trump rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6, 2021.

In an October 2022 hearing cited by Trump’s attorneys, Judge Chutkan described the Capitol assault as “nothing less than an attempt to violently overthrow the government” by Trump’s supporters, who “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.”

In arguing for Chutkan’s recusal, Trump’s attorneys said that “the public meaning of this statement is inescapable — President Trump is free, but should not be. As an apparent prejudgment of guilty, these comments are disqualifying standing alone.”

In another example, Trump’s attorneys cited a December 2021 hearing in which Chutkan, addressing a convicted rioter, said that “the people who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action and to fight have not been charged.”

“Public statements of this sort create a perception of prejudgment incompatible with our justice system,” Trump’s attorneys argued in their bid to have Chutkan disqualified.

In her ruling Wednesday, Chutkan also disputed that her statements were based on facts she observed through news coverage, rather than those presented to her through the defendants themselves in their arguments asking for leniency.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges of undertaking a “criminal scheme” to overturn the results of the 2020 election by enlisting a slate of so-called “fake electors,” using the Justice Department to conduct “sham election crime investigations,” trying to enlist the vice president to “alter the election results,” and promoting false claims of a stolen election as the Jan. 6 riot raged — all in an effort to subvert democracy and remain in power.

Chutkan has set a start date of March 4, 2024, for the trial.

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