Former President Donald Trump was never going to get a fair trial in Washington, D.C., especially with a jury plucked from a pool that voted for President Joe Biden 92 to 5 percent and a federal judge who has had it out for Trump and his supporters.
That’s why Trump’s legal team is angling for the case to be moved outside the swamp that he pledged to “drain” in a second term. The indictment from earlier this month, not to be confused with the Georgia indictment out Monday night, was the third round of get-Trump charges this election cycle and was ostensibly related to Trump’s speech surrounding the Capitol riot two and a half years ago. Judge Tanya Chutkan is presiding.
“There is no way I can get a fair trial with the judge ‘assigned’ to the ridiculous freedom of speech/fair elections case. Everybody knows this, and so does she!” Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social. “We will be immediately asking for recusal of this judge on very powerful grounds, and likewise for venue change, out [of] D.C.”
An examination of Chutkan’s prior statements gives Trump and his supporters good reason to be concerned. Chutkan, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Barack Obama and confirmed in 2014, has a recent track record that is incompatible with impartiality. Serving on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Chutkan has presided over more than three dozen cases of those charged with crimes related to the Capitol riot. According to the Associated Press, Chutkan built a reputation as a “tough punisher of Capitol rioters,” with 38 defendants receiving severe sentences.
“Other judges typically have handed down sentences that are more lenient than those requested by prosecutors,” the AP reported. “Chutkan, however, has matched or exceeded prosecutors’ recommendations in 19 of her 38 sentences. In four of those cases, prosecutors weren’t seeking any jail time at all.”
While dishing out decades in prison time related to the Jan. 6 riot, Chutkan rejected the idea that a bunch of LARPers led by some Narnia-like minotaur should be compared to the left-wing George Floyd riots, which cost an estimated $2 billion in just two weeks.
To Chutkan, the latter was a minor episode in the righteous crusade for social justice. The former was a major threat to democracy.
In 2021, Chutkan said of the 2020 riots that “people gathered all over the country last year to protest the violent murder by the police of an unarmed man.”
“But to compare the actions of people protesting, mostly peacefully, for civil rights,” she added, “to those of a violent mob seeking to overthrow the lawfully elected government is a false equivalency and ignores a very real danger that the Jan. 6 riot posed to the foundation of our democracy.”
Sounds like a very reasoned judge prepared to preside fairly and impartially over the unprecedented trial of a former president who was vilified as the provocateur of the riot she condemned.
Trump and his legal team may hope to move the trial away from D.C., but Chutkan’s record previews how that will pan out. In April last year, one of the Jan. 6 defendants also moved to have the trial held outside the nation’s capital.
“The defendant had noted the Capitol riot’s impact on local residents, pretrial publicity and how D.C. voted in the 2020 presidential election,” The Hill reported. “Chutkan rejected all of those arguments, calling the defendant’s contention about the city’s political makeup ‘misleading and ultimately unavailing.'”
According to Chutkan, the idea that a jury from where Democrats captured their highest electoral margin in the presidential contest would be biased against Trump is “misleading.”
Chutkan has even previously ruled against Trump related to the same incident. Two years ago, Chutkan denied the former president’s request to assert executive privilege over documents sought by the House Select Committee on Jan. 6.
Trump has every reason to want to hold his trial outside the Beltway. But reasons don’t matter in banana republics.