Donald Trump will ask for the federal judge overseeing the case involving his attempt to subvert the 2020 presidential election to recuse herself and will seek a venue change, he wrote in a post on social media Sunday.
“There is no way I can get a fair trial with the judge ‘assigned’ to the ridiculous freedom of speech/fair elections case. Everybody knows this, and so does she!,” Trump wrote in all caps on Truth Social. “We will be immediately asking for recusal of this judge on very powerful grounds, and likewise for venue change, out [of] D.C.”
D.C. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate on 95-0 vote, has delivered some of the harshest sentences to Jan. 6 defendants to date. However, she has also avoided some of the most pointed criticisms of Trump that some of her colleagues on the federal bench in D.C. have delivered in sentencing defendants involved in attack on the Capitol. Chutkan was selected at random to preside over the case.
Trump previously wrote on Truth Social that a fair trial would be “impossible” in D.C., suggesting the proceedings should instead take place in “the politically unbiased nearby State of West Virginia!” In the post, he described D.C. as “over 95% anti-Trump,” seemingly alluding to the 2020 election results in D.C., which voted 92% to 4% for Biden over Trump.
But Trump’s argument has been repeatedly rejected by federal judges in D.C. who have handled other politically sensitive cases stemming from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Dozens of Jan. 6 defendants have attempted to transfer their cases outside of Washington, D.C., claiming the city’s liberal lean makes it impossible to secure a fair trial for those who are almost uniformly Trump supporters.
First and foremost, the judges note, the city is large and diverse enough that the presumption 12 impartial jurors could not be found is far-fetched. Secondly, they’ve noted, jurors are selected after a rigorous “voir dire” process that includes intensive questioning by the lawyers and the judge, a system intended to weed out jurors who might have an impermissible bias or be unwilling to set aside political views to judge a case based on evidence and facts.
Usually, judges have said only after that process, if it still seems impossible to seat a fair jury, would a motion to transfer the case to a different venue be in order. In other words, even if Chutkan were willing to consider changing venue, it’s unlikely she would do so prior to a voir dire process.
Trump’s recusal motion is unlikely to fare much better. Chutkan has shown no indication that she intends to recuse, nor is there any known conflict that would typically require it. She has previously ruled against Trump in his bid to shield his White House papers from the Jan. 6 select committee, but she has not opined about his innocence or guilt of any crimes associated with the charges he now faces. It’s unclear what other bases Trump may cite to call for her recusal.
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