U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, D.C., won’t recuse herself from Donald Trump’s 2020 election interference case, rejecting the former president’s claims that her past comments raise doubts about whether she can be fair. Chutkan, who was nominated by President Obama and was randomly assigned to Trump’s case, said she sees no reason to step aside. The case, scheduled for trial in March, accuses Trump of illegally scheming to overturn his election loss to Joe Biden. There is a high bar for recusal, and legal experts had considered Trump’s request to be a long shot aimed at undermining the legitimacy of the case, reports the Associated Press.
Seeking Chutkan’s recusal, defense lawyers cited statements she made in two sentencing hearings of participants in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol in which they said she had appeared to suggest that Trump deserved to be prosecuted and held accountable. Chutkan said Wednesday that she "has never taken the position the defense ascribes to it: that former ‘President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned,’ and the defense does not cite any instance of the court ever uttering those words or anything similar.”
It’s the second time Trump has tried unsuccessfully to get a judge removed from one of the criminal cases against him. Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing Trump’s New York hush money case, rejected similar demands that he step aside, saying he is certain of his “ability to be fair and impartial.” Chutkan has been a tough punisher of defendants charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection.