A federal judge, Tanya Chutkan, has rejected former President Donald Trump’s request to recuse herself from overseeing the 2020 election interference case. Trump’s legal team argued that Chutkan’s comments made in court disqualified her from the case. However, Chutkan stated in her opinion that her comments during sentencing hearings for two defendants involved in the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, did not warrant recusal. She clarified that her remarks were in response to the arguments made by the defendants and were not a statement about Trump’s guilt or a call for his prosecution or imprisonment.
Trump’s attorneys highlighted several statements made by Chutkan that they believed were critical of the former president. They argued that her comment suggesting Trump should not be free implied that he should be prosecuted or imprisoned. However, Chutkan clarified that she had never taken the position that Trump should be prosecuted or imprisoned, and her comments were a response to the defendants’ arguments for reduced sentences. Chutkan noted that she ultimately rejected those arguments and did not assign culpability to anyone else.
The special counsel, Jack Smith, argued that there was no valid basis for Chutkan to recuse herself and that her comments had been taken out of context. Trump’s attorneys may petition an appeals court to require her recusal, but such efforts are often unsuccessful. At this time, it is unclear whether they will pursue that option.