Jack Smith Counteracts Trump’s Request for D.C. Judge Recusal

Special counsel Jack Smith staunchly denies the legitimacy of former President Donald Trump’s request for U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to step down from overseeing his case in Washington, D.C., where he is facing allegations of meddling in the 2020 elections. Smith vehemently refuted Trump’s claims in a recently submitted motion, insisting there is “no valid basis” for the recusal request.

In the detailed 20-page rebuttal, which was disclosed by CBS News on Friday, Smith emphasizes that Trump failed to substantiate his accusations of bias against Judge Chutkan. Smith contends, “To substantiate his claims, Trump needs to demonstrate an evident deep-rooted prejudice against him, which he has failed to do.” He further noted that Trump’s accusations are mere insinuations of presumed bias, lacking concrete evidence to indicate any real prejudice.

Moreover, Smith accuses Trump of manipulating Judge Chutkan’s earlier statements from separate court proceedings, misrepresenting the legal protocols surrounding judicial recusals, and selectively utilizing comments from the sentencing of two individuals involved in the January 6 Capitol disturbances. Smith clarifies that the Judge was merely addressing a frequently used defense by numerous individuals charged in relation to the January 6 events, which sought to diminish their roles and liabilities compared to others who were not held accountable, including Trump.

Earlier in the week, Trump’s legal team officially requested Judge Chutkan’s withdrawal from the case, alleging that she had previously implied that Trump should be held criminally responsible and incarcerated. They pointed out comments made by the Judge during the sentencing of a person involved in the Capitol riots in October 2022, implying that the chaos on January 6 unfolded due to “unwavering allegiance to a single individual who continues to enjoy freedom.”

Trump’s legal representatives interpreted this remark as an unambiguous indication that, in her view, Trump ought to be behind bars. They argued, “The implication that Trump is at liberty but shouldn’t be is clear from this comment.”

In his detailed counter-argument, Smith cited additional context from the Judge’s comments, asserting that she never declared Trump to be legally or morally responsible for the January 6 events or deserving of any penalty. Rather, she was fulfilling her judicial duty of considering and responding to a plea made during a sentencing hearing. Addressing the “unwavering allegiance” comment, Smith stated that it was nothing more than a factual observation in response to a recurrent line of defense, and not an indication of the Judge’s personal belief regarding Trump’s imprisonment.

The decision on whether or not to recuse herself rests with Judge Chutkan, based on whether her remarks could potentially be perceived as biased. In the event of her recusal, the case would be handed over to a new judge. Even though Trump’s lawyers have the option to escalate the matter to an appellate court to enforce the recusal, such endeavors are typically unsuccessful. 

The deadline for a response from Trump’s camp to Smith’s counterarguments is set for the coming week.