DOJ argues judge shouldn’t recuse herself in Trump case

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Washington — Special counsel Jack Smith filed a blistering motion in response to former President Donald Trump’s request that the judge overseeing his federal 2020 election interference criminal case recuse herself.

“There is no valid basis, under the relevant law and facts, for the Honorable Tanya S. Chutkan, United States District Judge for the District of Columbia, to disqualify herself in this proceeding,” Smith wrote in a 20-page filing an hour before a deadline set by Chutkan to respond.

Smith argued Trump hasn’t proven Chutkan made biased claims.

“To mount a successful recusal claim based on the cited statements, the defendant must show that they display a deep-seated animosity toward him,” his motion said. “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.

Trump’s lawyers argued in a filing Monday that Chutkan should remove herself from the case because of previous statements she made while sentencing defendants who were convicted in the Capitol riot.

“Judge Chutkan has, in connection with other cases, suggested that President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in their request. “Such statements, made before this case began and without due process, are inherently disqualifying.”

They highlighted several statements she made that appeared critical of the former president, including telling one defendant in October 2022 that the violent attempt to overthrow the government came from “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 attorneys wrote.

Ultimately, it is up to Chutkan to decide whether her past statements create the perception of bias. A new judge would be assigned to the case if she recuses. Trump’s attorneys could petition an appeals court to require her to recuse, but such efforts are often not successful.

Trump will be able to respond to Smith’s counterargument, and his deadline to do so is next week.

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