The Justice Department is opposing former president Donald Trump’s attempts to get the Washington judge presiding over the case where he is accused of trying to rig the 2020 election disqualified.
In a court document submitted late on Thursday, prosecutors from special counsel Jack Smith’s team stated that there was “no valid basis” for U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to recuse herself.
Trump’s attorneys filed a long-shot motion earlier this week asking Chutkan to recuse herself, citing remarks she made in separate sentencing hearings connected to the riot that occurred on January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol. They claim that these remarks taint the Trump proceedings and raise the possibility that Chutkan has already made up her mind about the former Republican president’s guilt.
During one of these hearings, Chutkan remarked that the defendant who had been given a sentence of more than five years in jail had “made a very good point” on the fact that the “people who exhorted” and “encouraged” him “to go and take action and to fight” had not been charged. Chutkan stated that she had no “influence on that” and did not “make charging decisions.”
“I have my opinions,” she said, “but they are not relevant.”
The Trump campaign, however, was accused by the Justice Department of taking Chutkan’s remarks out of context and failing to demonstrate that she harboured any animus towards the former president, who lost the 2020 race to Democrat Joe Biden and falsely claimed the outcome was rigged.
The Trump legal team’s statements, according to the Justice Department, show the judge doing nothing more than her job in responding to and rejecting their attempts to downplay their own guilt by blaming Trump, who had urged his supporters to “fight like hell” at a rally just before the deadly Capitol uprising.
According to the prosecution, Chutkan made no claims that Trump was morally or legally responsible for the events of January 6 or that he should face punishment.
“Although the defendant tries to claim otherwise, the Court’s statements about which he complains are core intrajudicial statements — statements that the Court made while performing its official duties, in direct response to the arguments before it, and which were derived from knowledge and experience the Court gained on the bench,” the prosecutors wrote.
They added: “As such, to mount a successful recusal claim based on the cited statements, the defendant must show that they display a deep-seated animosity toward him. The defendant cannot meet this heavy burden.”
Trump’s move is unlikely to be granted due to the strict requirements for recusal. In a separate New York prosecution he faces, a similar attempt to get the judge’s recusal was failed.