Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office defended on Thursday the federal judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election interference case after Trump motioned for her to recuse.
Prosecutors wrote in a 20-page court filing that there is “no valid basis” for U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan to recuse, arguing that Trump “cherry-picks” statements from two Jan. 6 case sentencing transcripts that demonstrate “no improper bias or prejudgment of the current case.” Trump’s Monday motion alleged that Chutkan’s comments in two prior cases involving Jan. 6 defendants are “disqualifying” because they “suggested Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned.”
“The defendant has failed to identify anything approaching the clear and convincing evidence necessary to overcome the presumption of impartiality,” prosecutors wrote. “Instead, he has relied on suggestion and innuendo to insinuate something sinister in the Court simply doing its job by addressing sentencing arguments.”
Trump’s filing pointed to a statement Chutkan made in an October 2022 case where she said those who rioted on Jan. 6 were showing “blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day.”
In December 2021, Chutkan told Jan. 6 defendant Robert Scott Palmer “you have made a very good point, one that has been made before — that the people who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action and to fight have not been charged,” according to the transcript. Chutkan said afterwards the decision to charge was “not before” her and that her opinions “are not relevant.”
“In both instances, the Court was appropriately responding to and ultimately rejecting— a common argument raised by scores of January 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,” prosecutors wrote.
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