Donald Trump slammed the judge presiding over his newest criminal case early Monday, testing her three-day-old warning that he refrain from “inflammatory” attacks against those involved in his case.
In a Truth Social post just before 1 a.m., Trump assailed U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan as “highly partisan” and “very biased and unfair,” citing as evidence a statement she made during the sentencing of a woman who participated in the mob that breached the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“She obviously wants me behind bars,” Trump wrote.
Trump was alluding to Chutkan’s remark during the October 2022 sentencing of Christine Priola of Ohio. Chutkan admonished Priola, before sentencing her to 15 months in jail, about the Jan. 6 mob’s threat to the peaceful transfer of power.
“I see the videotapes. I see the footage of the flags and the signs that people were carrying and the hats that they were wearing, and the garb,” Chutkan said. “And the people who mobbed that Capitol were there in fealty, in loyalty to one man, not to the Constitution, of which most of the people who come before me seem woefully ignorant; not to the ideals of this county and not to the principles of democracy. It’s blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day.”
Chutkan’s sentiments have been common among judges who have sentenced Jan. 6 rioters. Several have expressed discomfort over punishing rioters — who had been deluged with lies about the election by Trump and steered to the Capitol with a warning that their country was being stolen and their livelihoods were in danger — while those who misled them have faced no consequences. But Chutkan is the first of those judges to end up with Trump as a defendant in her court, charged by special counsel Jack Smith with seeking to subvert the 2020 election with lies and a plan to violate the constitution.
During a hearing Friday, Chutkan — appointed to the bench in 2014 by then-President Barack Obama after a unanimous confirmation in the Senate — repeatedly emphasized she would not consider politics in her courtroom during Trump’s proceedings. And she warned Trump, who has a history of publicly assailing judges, prosecutors and those arrayed against him as witnesses, that his inflammatory remarks could force her to speed up his criminal trial.
“I caution you and your client to take special care in your public statements about this case,” Chutkan told Trump lawyer John Lauro during the hearing. “I will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings.”
Trump appeared to test that premise on Sunday, when he amplified another ally’s attack on Chutkan, falsely accusing her of “admitting” to a plan to interfere in the 2024 election to harm Trump. But his Monday morning post was his first directly criticizing Chutkan since Friday’s hearing.
Trump has repeatedly called for Chutkan’s “immediate” recusal without a clear basis, a sentiment Lauro has not adopted and suggested was premature. Lauro did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Chutkan is not alone on the bench in underscoring the gulf in accountability for those who stormed into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 and Trump, who spent months perpetrating lies about election fraud and exhorting supporters to come to Washington before steering them toward the Capitol.
“People … were told lies, told falsehoods, told our election was stolen when it clearly was not,” U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said during the Nov. 2021 sentencing of defendant John Lolos. “We’re here today deciding whether Mr. Lolos should spend 30 days in jail when those who created the conditions that led to Mr. Lolos’ conduct, led to the events of Jan. 6 [haven’t been] held to account for their actions and their word.”
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson — who was seated in the chamber during Trump’s Aug. 3 arraignment — similarly noted the dissonance during the Sept. 2022 sentencing of a rioter who assaulted police.
“It is not patriotism, it is not standing up for America to stand up for one man — who knows full well that he lost — instead of the Constitution he was trying to subvert,” she said, directing her comments at other Republican leaders.
Smith’s newest charges against Trump for obstructing Congress on Jan. 6 are laden with allegations that Trump “knowingly” lied to his supporters before thousands of them marched on Congress.
Trump’s conditions of release at his arraignment earlier this month included a vow — which Trump swore to uphold in court — that he would not intimidate or harass witnesses and officers of the court or threaten the administration of justice. It’s unclear what Chutkan will do if she determines Trump has violated those conditions.
Prosecutors have previously flagged a broader Trump social media post in which the former president said he will “come after” anyone who goes after him, as well as his posts attacking Mike Pence, a GOP rival who is likely to be a star witness in the case. Chutkan noted those posts when she issued her warning in court last week
Judges confronted with violations of pretrial conditions can impose stricter conditions, like limits on social media use, prohibitions on travel and even pretrial detention. Those conditions would be particularly draconian for a defendant who is also leading his party’s primary for the presidential nomination. Chutkan has vowed not to let his candidacy affect her decision making and to treat him like any other defendant.
Chutkan’s comments at Priola’s sentencing hearing made no mention of Trump by name, despite the clear allusion. She spent the bulk of her remarks describing the danger the mob attack caused for police who were wounded and traumatized that day, as well as the larger threat it posed to democracy.
“We have officers who committed suicide. We have officers who still have suicidal ideation. We have many individuals, both law enforcement and individuals working in the Capitol that day, still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said. “The damage continues.”
Chutkan sentenced Priola to 15 months in prison, though Bureau of Prisons records indicate she’s due for release next month. Her lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.