WASHINGTON (CN) — Donald Trump lambasted the federal judge overseeing the criminal case over his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election, painting her as biased against him in a series of Truth Social posts over the weekend and early Monday morning.
Just days earlier U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued a protective order, as is common in criminal cases, limiting the sort of information the former president can share from reams of evidence prosecutors began turning over on Friday.
On Monday, a few minutes before 1 a.m. Eastern time, Trump used the social media platform, which he founded, to quote Chutkan speaking during the October sentencing hearing for Christine Priola, a defendant who pleaded guilty to participating in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump prefaced the words as proving the judge “obviously wants me behind bars.”
“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 at the hearing. “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 country and not to the principles of democracy. It’s blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day.”
The Barack Obama-appointed Chutkan's colleagues have made similar comments over the course of approximately 600 Jan. 6 sentencing hearings, as many defendants and their lawyers have argued the former president played an outsized role in bringing them to Washington that day and participating in the Capitol riot.
U.S. District Judge Chris Cooper, also an Obama appointee, offered the same analysis in a sentencing hearing on July 19 — just a day after Trump revealed he had received a target letter from special counsel Jack Smith signaling an indictment in the Jan. 6 investigation.
Continuing his tirade through Monday, the former president targeted Smith, whom he once again called “deranged,” and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, whose investigation into Trump’s alleged election interference in Georgia is reportedly ending and will likely result in an indictment — Trump’s fourth set of criminal charges — unsealed sometime this week.
Willis’ investigation focused on Trump’s attempts to turn the state’s election results in his favor, including a phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where Trump asked him to “find 11,780 votes” that would hand him the state’s 16 electoral votes.
Trump said Monday that Willis “wants desperately to indict me,” characterizing her investigation as ridiculous and a political prosecution.
He denied the allegation that he tampered with the election and described his call to Raffensperger as a “perfect phone call of protest,” instead placing the blame generally on those he claimed stole the election.
Chutkan's protective order followed arguments on Friday from prosecutor Thomas Windom and Trump’s attorney John Lauro, of the firm Lauro & Singer, over how broad or narrow the order should be. The Justice Department had proposed the order after Trump — the day after his initial appearance in the case — posted an apparent threat online.
“IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
The Justice Department expressed concern that without a protective order, Trump could use his platform to intimidate potential witnesses and threaten judges, attorneys and others associated with the case.
During Friday’s hearing Chutkan warned Lauro and co-defense attorneys Gregory Singer and Todd Blanche that the more their client makes inflammatory comments like these, “the greater the need to move quickly to trial.”
She reinforced the message with a promise to “take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings.”
Trump has tried to call into question whether he can receive a fair trial in Washington, both in regard to Chutkan and to the jury pool in a city that overwhelmingly voted for President Joe Biden in 2020.
He has called for Chutkan to recuse herself and for the case to be transferred to another district, offering West Virginia as a potential location — a state he won with 68% of the vote.
The chances of Chutkan approving a venue change are slim considering the Sixth Amendment requires a trial take place in the “district wherein the crime shall have been committed,” which in this case would be the Capitol, just down the street from the federal courthouse in Washington.
Next in Trump's case will be an Aug. 28 hearing to discuss a trial date and classified information that has been turned over to Trump’s legal team. Chutkan will likely address the posts at that time but may schedule an earlier hearing or issue an order before then.Follow @Ryan_Knappy
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