U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan has denied former President Donald Trump’s request that she recuse herself from his federal election obstruction case. Trump’s attorneys claimed that Chutkan’s statements in sentencing defendants tied to the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack demonstrated bias against the former president. However, Chutkan argued that the attorneys had taken her statements out of context and that they were an appropriate response to the defendants’ arguments for reduced sentences. Trump’s defense can appeal the decision, but the standard for a federal appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling is high.
Chutkan’s ruling highlights that a judge would only need to recuse themselves if their opinions demonstrated “deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible.” Chutkan argued that her opinions were formed based on the facts in the case and that she had not made recommendations to investigate or charge any additional individuals involved in the January 6 attack. Meanwhile, Trump is facing multiple criminal trials, including one scheduled for March 4 on charges of illegal plotting and attempting to undermine the federal government and election results. Chutkan is also set to rule on a gag order requested by prosecutors, who argue that Trump’s public statements are intimidating key figures in the case and undermining public confidence in the judicial system.
Some analysts speculate that Trump’s recusal request is a way to rally his supporters and delay the trials against him. Former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade suggests that if Trump can convince enough voters that his prosecution is unfair, he could potentially regain the presidency before a trial and appoint an attorney general who will dismiss the case. This isn’t the first time Trump has called for recusal, as he previously made a similar request in his New York criminal case. However, it was denied based on limited connections between the judge and Democratic Party candidates and organizations.