Former US president Donald Trump said Sunday he will petition to have a different judge oversee his historic criminal trial and for the case to be moved out of Washington.
The twice-impeached Republican has unleashed a stream of invective against those prosecuting him or running the case in which he faces charges over attempts to overturn the 2020 election results and defraud the United States.
His latest target: US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, the appointee of Democratic former president Barack Obama who was randomly assigned to the case in Washington.
“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, using all capital letters, posted on his Truth Social platform.
“We will be immediately asking for recusal of this judge on very powerful grounds, and likewise for venue change,” out of Washington — a majority Black city that leans heavily Democratic, Trump continued.
Chutkan, 61, is one of a dozen judges on the Washington federal district court bench. Her nomination to her post in 2014 was approved unanimously by the Senate.
She has a legal history with Trump, having ruled against him in a November 2021 case in which she notably declared that “presidents are not kings.” And she has handed down lengthy sentences to Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol on January 6 of that year.
She has rebuffed the Trump legal team’s recent demands.
On Saturday she denied their motion to extend a deadline for responding to the US government’s protective order request that could limit what Trump and his lawyers can share publicly about his case.
Team Trump wanted to push the deadline to Thursday, but the judge said they must abide by the current deadline of 5:00 pm (2100 GMT) Monday.
Pence May Testify
Former vice president Mike Pence, a key figure in the case, said Sunday that he would not object to testifying in Trump’s trial.
“I have no plans to testify,” Pence told CNN.
“But look… we’ll always comply with the law,” said the 64-year-old, who is now competing against his former boss for the Republican presidential nomination.
Leading up to the January 6, 2021 joint session of Congress, Trump had called on Pence to use his position as presiding officer to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.
When Pence refused to do so, Trump tweeted that he “didn’t have the courage.” Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol to interrupt the certification that day could be heard chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”
John Lauro, a member of Trump’s legal team, argued on Sunday that Trump’s requests were not orders, and were therefore legal under free speech clauses of the Constitution.
“Asking is aspirational. Asking is not action. It’s core free speech,” he told CNN.
The indictment last week revealed that Pence had taken “contemporaneous” notes of his meetings with Trump, which had been given to special prosecutor Jack Smith.
Trump, the clear frontrunner thus far in the Republican presidential primary, has not only pushed back against prosecutors and judiciary, he has also denigrated Washington.
Shortly after his arraignment on Thursday, when he pleaded not guilty to the four charges against him, he spoke to reporters and called the capital a city of “filth and decay.”
Trump’s trial date in the election case is expected to be announced on August 28 at a hearing before Chutkan.
Despite his legal peril, Trump retains the loyalty of a large segment of his party. He holds a substantial lead in polls for the Republican nomination and is seen as widening the gap with his nearest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.