(Bloomberg) -- US District Judge Tanya Chutkan refused to step down from the election-obstruction case in Washington against Donald Trump, rebuffing the former president’s claim that her past comments about him jeopardize his right to a fair trial.
The judge rejected a contention by Trump’s legal team that she’d expressed opinions on whether he should be prosecuted or prejudged his guilt. She wrote that the comments at issue in Trump’s recusal motion were about arguments raised by individuals charged in the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, and that the former president’s “inferential leap is not reasonable in light of the relevant facts, record, and law.”
“The statements certainly do not manifest a deep-seated prejudice that would make fair judgment impossible,” Chutkan wrote in the 20-page opinion.
It isn’t unusual for Trump to accuse judges of being biased against him, and he’s failed in previous attempts to force recusals in his many legal fights. Federal judges have wide discretion in deciding when to step aside, and they rarely do when there isn’t a direct financial or personal relationship at issue.
Trump won’t be able to challenge Chutkan’s order right away, but if convicted in the case, he could raise his bias claims again to appeal the verdict.
In a statement Wednesday, Trump’s campaign said it believed a judge should be disqualified “whenever a reasonable person might conclude that the court is biased, such as is the situation here.”
Chutkan’s decision comes as she weighs a request from Special Counsel John “Jack” Smith for a partial gag order, with the prosecutor arguing that Trump’s public statements “attacking the citizens of the District of Columbia, the court, prosecutors, and prospective witnesses” threaten “to undermine the integrity of these proceedings.” Prosecutors cited a slew of Trump’s social-media posts, including one where he described Chutkan as a “biased, Trump Hating Judge.”
Read More: Trump Prosecutor Calls for Partial Gag Order on Ex-President
Trump’s lawyers, in seeking the recusal, cited Chutkan’s comments in criminal cases against people charged with participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. Thousands of the former president’s supporters descended on the building as lawmakers met to certify President Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump’s team argued the judge created a “perception of prejudgment incompatible with our justice system” when she said Trump and other prominent Republicans who promoted false election-fraud claims hadn’t been charged so far.
Prosecutors countered that Chutkan and other judges presiding over Jan. 6 cases made those types of statements in the context of rejecting efforts by defendants to deflect blame to the former president and his allies. They argued that Trump was relying on “suggestion and innuendo to insinuate something sinister in the court simply doing its job” and that there was no evidence of bias.
The case is US v. Trump, 23-cr-00257, US District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
(Updates with Trump campaign comment)
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