Republican allies of Donald Trump are stepping up their attacks on Washington, D.C., District Judge Tanya Chutkan and the D.C. court itself, arguing it would be impossible for the former president to get a fair trial in the nation’s capital city.
Judge Chutkan’s ruling against Trump two years ago in a legal dispute over handing his presidential records to House investigators and the tough sentences the Obama appointee handed down to Jan. 6 defendants are drawing scrutiny and criticism from Trump’s allies.
Her record of contributing money to former President Obama’s presidential campaigns and the political leanings of D.C.’s residents, who would serve on the jury, are also coming under Republican attack.
A growing number of Republicans say the odds in the D.C. District Court are so stacked against Trump that a guilty verdict would lack legitimacy.
“I don’t think any Republican much less any America-first type Republican could ever expect to have a fair trial in a D.C. setting with a D.C. judge and D.C. jury. It’s all meant to rubberstamp what they already want to see happen,” said Ned Ryun, the founder and CEO of American Majority, a national grassroots conservative group.
“Of course it’s a rigged game. I think any fair-minded person would step back and say, ‘If you really want this to be a legitimate pursuit of justice, you would not be having it in D.C.,’” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair, I don’t think it will be legitimate.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused Chutkan of having “a reputation for being far left, even by D.C. District Court standards.”
He noted that she had set aside “numerous federal death penalty cases” and “is the only federal judge in Washington DC, who has sentenced Jan. 6 defendants to sentences longer than the government requested.”
Even Trump’s political rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, came to his defense by arguing that he won’t get a fair trial.
“Washington, DC, is a ‘swamp’ and it is unfair to have to stand trial before a jury that is reflective of the swamp mentality,” he posted on Twitter.
He argued that the “politicization of the rule of law” is causing national decline and pledged “to end the weaponization of the federal government.”
The other federal case against Trump will take place in Florida under District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee. That case involves charges related to Trump keeping classified documents at his estate at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
In the Jan. 6 case, Trump faces charges related in part to the mob of his supporters who invaded the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to interrupt the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote. The mob marched near the District of Columbia District Court served by Chutkan, who was chosen as part of a random draw to preside over the Trump case.
None of this has stopped supporters of Trump from arguing it is unfair for him to be tried there, suggesting they see it as a strong political argument to make as he seeks another win in a GOP presidential primary.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a prominent Trump ally in the House, took aim at Washington’s overwhelmingly Democratic voter registration in her arguments.
“Those are not his peers. Everybody knows this. Everyone knows he has no shot of a fair trial in the Washington, D.C., court system,” she said of the makeup of the District’s jury pool.
“He’s being indicted for saying the election was stolen. You know who else said the election was stolen? Hillary Clinton,” she said, referring to an interview former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave in 2019 in which she dismissed Trump as an “illegitimate president” and accused him of voter suppression.
President Biden carried Washington, D.C., with more than 92 percent of the vote in the 2020 election while Trump won only five percent. Clinton beat Trump in D.C. in 2016 with nearly 91 percent of the vote.
Republican predict that Trump will almost certainly face a guilty verdict in a trial that takes place in Washington, D.C. They say he has a better chance of winning on appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court, depending on the makeup of any appellate panel that rules on his case.
“The likelihood that a D.C. jury will vote to convict Donald Trump is exceptionally high and the facts don’t matter. The laws don’t matter. They hate him,” Cruz said on his podcast, “Verdict.”
“That’s a big part of the reason why the Biden [Department of Justice] wants to bring this case in D.C., which means with a far-left judge and a far-left jury, there is a very real possibility that Donald Trump ends up being convicted,” he said.
Cruz on Thursday retweeted a report that Chutkan had donated money to Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012 before she was confirmed to the federal bench in 2014.
He predicted the conviction wouldn’t stand on appeal and that his case would ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
Trump on Wednesday called for the trial to be moved to West Virginia, a state he carried with 29 percent of the vote in 2020.
“The latest Fake ‘case’ brought by Crooked Joe Biden & Deranged Jack Smith will hopefully be moved to an impartial Venue, such as the politically unbiased nearby State of West Virginia!” Trump posted on his social media platform, Truth Social.
Republicans are scrutinizing Chutkan’s record on the bench, especially her rulings in cases related to Trump and people who overran the Capitol on Jan. 6.
In December 2021, she gave a five-year prison sentence to a Florida man who dispensed a fire extinguisher in the Capitol and threw it and a wooden plank at Capitol police. At the time, it was the longest sentence imposed on a Jan. 6 defendant.
In another 2021 sentencing, she dismissed the prosecution’s recommendations that a defendant serve a period of home confinement as too light a punishment and instead sentenced the individual to 45 days in jail, proclaiming: “There have to be consequences for participating in an attempted violent overthrow of government.”
Chutkan as the presiding judge will have the power to make hugely important decisions in the case, such as whether an appellate court should hear some of the process arguments before the trial goes to verdict.
She will also have say over the timing of the case and the penalty if Trump is found guilty.
Trump’s legal team has sought to delay the start of his trial in the Southern District of Florida on charges that he violated the Espionage Act and conspired to obstruct the FBI’s efforts to recover classified documents from his Mar-a-Lago residence until after the 2024 election.
Trump faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each of two counts of obstructing the vote certification proceedings.
He also faces a maximum punishment of ten years in prison for conspiring against the right to vote and another maximum of five years incarceration for defrauding the United States.
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