There is “no valid basis” behind former President Donald Trump’s call for U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to recuse herself from his case in Washington, D.C., accusing him of election interference in 2020, special counsel Jack Smith says in a motion filed in response to Trump’s demands.
“He must show that they display a deep-seated animosity toward him,” Smith argued in his response. “The defendant cannot meet this heavy burden…because the defendant cannot point to any statements expressing actual bias, all he can say — and he says it repeatedly — is that the Court’s comments ‘suggest’ some sort of bias or prejudice toward the defendant.”
Smith added that Trump, while seeking Chutkan’s recusal, “takes out of context the Court’s words from prior judicial proceedings and misstates the proper legal standards governing judicial recusals” and “cherry-picks” from sentencing hearings for two Jan. 6 Capitol protest defendants.
In both cases, Smith writes, “the Court was appropriately responding to — and ultimately rejecting — a common argument raised by scores of Jan. 6 offenders: That they deserved leniency because their actions were inspired by, or were not as serious as, those of others who contributed to the riot but had not been held responsible—including former president Donald J. Trump, the defendant in this case.”
Monday, Trump’s attorneys filed a call for Chutkan to remove herself from the case against him because of statements she’d made during the sentencing hearings.
“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.”
Trump’s attorneys also highlighted comments she’d made about him including telling one Capitol defendant in October 2022 that the Jan. 6 incidents happened because 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 lawyers said.
Smith included more transcripts of the remarks in his response, arguing that Chutkan “did not state that [Trump] was legally or morally culpable for the events of January 6 or that he deserved punishment,” but instead that “the Court was engaged in its judicial responsibility to hear, acknowledge, and respond to [the Jan. 6 defendant’s] sentencing allocution.”
He also addressed the “blind loyalty statement,” writing that “from this simple statement of uncontroverted fact, the defendant purports to draw the ‘inescapable’ message that the Court believes that defendant Trump should be imprisoned. But the only inescapable thing about the Court’s comment is that it stated an uncontested and accurate fact in response to a mitigation argument that the Court had heard many times before.”
It will be up to Chutkan to decide if her statements cause a perception of bias, and if she recuses herself, a new judge will be assigned to the case. Even if Trump’s attorneys petition an appeals court to force her to step away, such efforts do not usually succeed.
Trump’s side has until next week to respond to Smith’s arguments.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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