By Asking for Tanya Chutkan’s Recusal, Trump Invited a Lesson in His Centrality to January 6

Trump’s motion for Tanya Chutkan to recuse was not designed to work. Rather, it was designed as a messaging vehicle, to establish the basis for Trump to claim that a Black Judge was biased against him so he can better use it to discredit rule of law and as a campaign and fundraising vehicle.

Because Trump’s motion was primarily a messaging vehicle, the — legally apt — messaging with which DOJ responded is of some interest.

Invited to do so by Trump, DOJ laid out how central Trump is to the thousand other January 6 prosecutions.

Invited to do so by Trump, for example, DOJ provided eight other times — in addition to the cases of Robert Palmer and Christine Priola cited in the recusal motion — where defendants before Judge Chutkan have implicated Trump in their actions.

This Court, like all courts in this District, has presided over dozens of criminal cases related to January 6. And this Court, like all courts in this District, gained knowledge about the events of January 6 and insight about the persons charged based on its daily administration of those cases. For instance, the Court learned that numerous individuals charged with January 6 crimes attempted to minimize their actions and spread blame to others, including to defendant Trump and to the mob that each rioter joined at the Capitol. Indeed, the Court regularly heard variations of such arguments from other defendants, in the form of sentencing memoranda and allocutions, before similar claims were made by the defendants in the two sentencing hearings on which the defendant bases his claim of bias.1

1 See United States v. Bauer, 21-cr-49, ECF No. 38 at 3 (D.D.C. Oct. 6, 2021) (Def. Sentencing Mem.) (arguing that Bauer “only decided to turn from the Ellipse and head towards the Capitol when then-President Trump directed the crowd to proceed in that direction” and then followed the group); United States v. Hemenway, 21-cr-49, ECF No. 39 at 2 (D.D.C. Oct. 6, 2021) (Def. Sentencing Mem.) (arguing that Hemenway decided “to take part in the political rally on the Ellipse” and got “caught up in the group mentality of the crowd that entered the Capitol”); United States v. Bissey, 21-cr-165, ECF No. 29 at 17 (D.D.C. Oct. 12, 2021) (Sentencing Tr.) (defense attorney arguing that Bissey had minimal role on January 6 and “did not come to D.C. with any intention other than supporting her president”); United States v. Miller, 21-cr-226, ECF No. 52 at 4 (D.D.C. Dec. 8, 2021) (Def. Sentencing Mem.) (arguing that “[Miller] had absolutely no expectation or desire to overthrow the government. Rather, she was supporting the President in what he claimed were legitimate efforts to claim victory in the Presidential election.”); United States v. Perretta, 21-cr-539, ECF No. 55 at 2 (D.D.C. Jan. 4, 2022) (Def. Sentencing Mem.) (arguing that Perretta “attended the ‘Save America’ political rally, where then-President Trump encouraged listeners to march to the Capitol to make their voices heard” and then went to the Capitol with thousands of other individuals from the Ellipse); United States v. Ehmke, 21-cr-29, ECF No. 30 at 2-5, 8-9 (D.D.C. May 6, 2022) (Def. Sentencing Mem.) (arguing that Ehmke had a minor role and that others, “including the former president, the rally’s organizers and speakers, and other nefarious, organized groups . . . arguably bear much greater responsibility”); United States v. Ponder, 21-cr-259, ECF No. 58 at 21-22 (D.D.C. Jul. 26, 2022) (Sentencing Tr.) (Ponder asserting that he marched from Ellipse to Capitol “with the intentions on a peaceful protest. However, things had spiraled out of control” and he “got caught up in it.”); United States v. Cortez, 21-cr-317, ECF No. 80 at 38 (D.D.C. Aug. 31, 2022) (Sentencing Tr.) (defense attorney arguing that Cortez was “being told these things by the president, you need to save your country, and he’s trying to do something right”). [my emphasis]

Again, these are just defendants Judge Chutkan has already sentenced. The footnote conveys how routine it is for defendants, before every single DC judge, to blame Trump for their role in assaulting the Capitol.

Invited to do so by Trump, DOJ laid out how Christine Priola wore Trump merch as she surged through the East door alongside the Oath Keepers and Joe Biggs, and then helped occupy the Senate floor on January 6.

On October 28, 2022, the Court sentenced Christine Priola, who on January 6, 2021, surged with other rioters into the Capitol and onto the Senate floor, “carrying a large sign reading, ‘WE THE PEOPLE TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY’ on one side and ‘THE CHILDREN CRY OUT FOR JUSTICE’ on the other,” United States v. Priola, 22-cr-242, ECF No. 65 at 3 (D.D.C. July 26, 2022) (Statement of Offense), and wearing pants with the phrase, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN,” id., ECF No. 56 at 13, 16 (D.D.C. Oct. 21, 2022) (Govt. Sentencing Mem.). Priola was charged with, and pled guilty to, obstructing an official proceeding, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2). Id., ECF No. 66 at 2 (D.D.C. Feb. 21, 2023) (Sentencing Tr.)

In her sentencing memorandum, Priola, too, laid the groundwork for spreading the blame to others, noting that “[a]fter the presidential election, Donald Trump . . . and his inner circle began spreading the word that the election was ‘stolen’ from him by Democrats and others,” with claims “made on media sources, as well as by the President himself, that the election system had been corrupted and that the integrity of the election should be questioned.” Id., ECF No. 57 at 3 (D.D.C. Oct. 21, 2022) (Def. Sentencing Mem.). Priola’s sentencing memorandum then sought leniency for Priola in part because she “played no role of importance” at the Capitol, and had she not been there, “there wouldn’t be one change in what transpired.” Id. at 14.

At her sentencing hearing, Priola likewise explained that, at the time of her criminal conduct, she believed that the election had been stolen and that “certain politicians or groups have, like, taken over things that maybe weren’t supposed to be.” Id., ECF No. 66 at 26 (D.D.C. Feb. 21, 2023) (Sentencing Tr.). [my emphasis]

Because Priola raised Trump in her sentencing submission, DOJ explained, binding precedent required Chutkan to respond to it.

Similarly, on Trump’s invitation, DOJ laid out how Palmer claimed he went to the Capitol “at the behest of” Trump where, while wearing a Florida for Trump hat, he serially assaulted cops defending the Capitol.

On December 17, 2021, the Court sentenced Robert Scott Palmer, an individual who, on January 6, 2021, after attending the former president’s remarks at the Ellipse and while wearing a “Florida for Trump” hat, “threw a wooden plank at” police officers; “sprayed the contents of a fire extinguisher at the officers until it was empty, and then threw the fire extinguisher” at them; and “assaulted another group of law enforcement officers with a 4-5 foot pole,” which he threw “like a spear at the officers.” United States v. Palmer, 21-cr-328, ECF 30, at 10, 2 (Govt. Sentencing Mem.); id., ECF No. 23, at 3 (D.D.C. Oct. 4, 2021) (Statement of Offense). Palmer was charged with, and pled guilty to, assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 111(a) and (b). Id., ECF No. 24 at 1 (D.D.C. Oct. 4, 2021) (Plea Agreement).

In a sentencing memorandum filed before his hearing, Palmer’s attorney asserted that he had gone to the Capitol “at the behest of” the defendant and had been convinced by individuals, including the defendant, that the election was fraudulent and that Palmer needed to take action to stop the presidential transition. Id., ECF No. 31 at 8 (D.D.C. Dec. 13, 2021) (Def. Sentencing Mem.). Two paragraphs later in the memorandum, Palmer’s attorney argued that the Court should, as a mitigating factor, “consider that the riot almost surely would not have occurred but for the financing and organization that was conducted by persons unconnected to Mr. Palmer who will likely never be held responsible for their relevant conduct.” See id. at 8-9. [my emphasis]

Because Palmer blamed Trump for his actions in his sentencing package, DOJ explained, binding precedent required Chutkan to respond to it.

Even before it laid out how the claims of defendants obligated Chutkan to address their claims that Trump caused them to do what they did, DOJ laid out the precedents that apply to intrajudicial comments about related cases, a much higher standard for recusal than the precedents Trump invoked. At Trump’s invitation, then, DOJ cited Watergate, where the DC Circuit did not find that Judge John Sirica should have recused from the Haldeman trial because he had, during the burglars’ trial, correctly judged that the conspiracy extended well beyond those men.

[T]he Supreme Court has held that where a recusal motion rests on statements made in a judicial setting and reflect “opinions formed by the judge on the basis of facts introduced or events occurring in the course of the current proceedings, or of prior proceedings,” recusal will be warranted “only in the rarest circumstances” where the comments “display a deepseated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible.” Id. at 555. After all, “opinions held by judges as a result of what they learned in earlier proceedings” are “normal and proper,” and “not subject to deprecatory characterization as ‘bias’ or ‘prejudice.’” Id. at 551; see Belue v. Leventhal, 640 F.3d 567, 573 (4th Cir. 2011) (“The high bar set by Liteky for predispositional recusals makes good sense. If it were otherwise—if strong views on a matter were disqualifying—then a judge would hardly have the freedom to be a judge.”).

This higher standard applies equally when a court’s intrajudicial statements were made in separate proceedings, including proceedings in which the defendant was not a party. The D.C. Circuit made this clear in its decision in United States v. Haldeman, 559 F.2d 31 (D.C. Cir. 1976) (en banc). There, defendants sought recusal of the judge presiding over numerous, separate Watergate-related matters, in part based on statements the judge had made during an earlier, separate trial in which, among other things, he “expressed a belief that criminal liability extended beyond the seven persons there charged.” Id. at 131-32 & n.293. The Circuit found that recusal was not warranted because the grounds for the claim were “judicial acts” including “prior judicial rulings . . . or the exercise of related judicial functions.” Id. at 133-34. The Circuit further stated that the “disabling prejudice” necessary for recusal “cannot be extracted from dignified though persistent judicial efforts to bring everyone responsible for Watergate to book.” Id.

At Trump’s invitation, DOJ likened the January 6 rioters to Watergate burglars directed by those trying to help the President retain power.

And, at Trump’s invitation, DOJ recalled a more recent DC Circuit opinion finding that far stronger intrajudicial statements also did not require recusal. At Trump’s invitation, DOJ recalled how Trump’s people had started selling out the country even before being sworn in.

On the other side of the ledger are countless cases in which recusal based on judicial comments was deemed unwarranted—even based on comments that, unlike this Court’s comments on which the defendant bases his motion, directly criticize a defendant. For instance, recently in this District, a judge told a defendant at a hearing, “Arguably, you sold your country out. . . . I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense.” In re Flynn, 973 F.3d 74, 83 (D.C. Cir. 2020) (en banc) (per curiam). The D.C. Circuit found that these statements did not meet the Liteky test, stating, “the District Judge was not simply holding forth on his opinions; rather, each of the statements to which Petitioner objects was plainly made in the course of formal judicial proceedings over which he presided—not in some other context.”

Trump wants his January 6 trial to be messaging and fundraising vehicle.

But that may serve as little more than an invitation for DOJ to lay out just how deeply implicated he is in the entire assault on the Capitol.

105 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    I think you left a word out of the second sentence:

    Rather, it was designed as a messaging vehicle, to establish the basis for Trump to claim that a Black Judge was biased against him so he can better use it to discredit rule of law and as a campaign and fundraising vehicle.

    Shouldn’t this read “a Black Female Judge”? I think Trump is at least as bothered at being judged by a woman who doesn’t show proper respect to him as an alpha male as he is at being held to account by an African-American. In Trump’s eyes, and the eyes of the Bubbas in MAGAWorld, this isn’t just Uppity times two, but Uppity squared.

    Now back to reading the rest of the post.

  2. Peterr says:

    Trump only offers the best, most perfect, hugest invitations. And the DOJ is all to happy to accept.

    A couple days ago, I noted that Chutkin had to respond to the “But Donald Trump sent me!” arguments put forward by previous defendants in her courts:

    Also, she [Chutkin] was not randomly injecting personal thoughts and opinions into the discussion. The defendants in the case raised Trump’s non-indictment as a reason why they should not be charged, or why they should get mercy. She was replying to this argument, properly so, and saying in essence, “I agree that those who planned things ought to be indicted, but that’s not my job, and that’s not the case before me today. You are the one on trial here, for the actions you took.” She HAD to address the issue raised by the defense, and chose to do so in a way that made clear that she understands what the defendants are saying but also understands that this (properly) has no bearing on the case under consideration.

    But the *way* in which DOJ replied to Trump calling this evidence of “bias” is absolutely brilliant. They were able to turn these insurrectionists into witnesses in Trump’s trial, without having to call them to the stand or subject them to cross-examination by Trump’s attorneys.

    Of course, Team Trump could try to call them as witnesses in order to rebut this testimony. At that point, Jack Smith’s smile would only get wider. “Another invitation? Don’t mind if we do . . .”

      • Rwood0808 says:

        I would say both Smith and team Willis/Loyd were well prepared for every move trump and his soldiers have made thus far.

        The best part is that it’s all trumps fault. His crimes are some of the worst executed I think I’ve ever read about, and that leaves him very few options that are not easily predictable. I would go so far as to say that they had a response ready and waiting for Gym Jordan when he took the stage for his bit of political theater. It was so good I read it twice.

    • Purple Martin says:

      Yes, love Marcy’s repetition of a powerful phrase (epistrophe):

      At Trump’s invitation…
      At Trump’s invitation…
      …at Trump’s invitation…
      At Trump’s invitation…

      Bet that exact thing will appear in DoJ’s and possibly Fulton County’s closing arguments.

      • xxbronxx says:

        Sounds to me that someone at the DOJ knows the Passover song “Dayenu”, which means “it would have been sufficient” when repeated after a long list of gifts given to the Hebrews by God, each one “would have been sufficient”. Dayenu indeed.

      • Lawnboy says:


        Reminds me of “David’s Father “ by Robert Munche. I’ve been reading to my grandchildren this summer bc they are a no screen time family. I hope they can reach Dr. wheeler’s amazing skill set some day. ( 2 Masters degrees achievement by my own children, History, Applied Nutrition , plus a Carpenter )

        I read to my children every night and boy did that pay off.

        • Rena says:

          Retired lawyer here who also read to my kids every night. (One currently getting teaching credential and the other finishing Ph.D.). I did not think that I would be spending so much of my retirement reading legal documents. One more thing to hold against TFG!

  3. Kennygauss says:

    This is getting more interesting every hour of the day! How many more foot in mouth claims will Mr Trump make, before he starts to realise he is not helping himself with anything he claims?

    • scroogemcduck says:

      It depends what game Trump is trying to play. If he has accepted, as I believe he has, that he will be convicted at trial, but that he will be free pending appeal, his strategy makes sense.

      The political strategy is to pull every dirty trick in the book everything to get elected.

      The legal strategy is “Fuck it, I’ll burn it all down.”

      • Capemaydave says:

        Just checking the NH statutes relating to getting on the ballot as Presidential candidate:

        655:17-b Declaration of Intent; Presidential Candidates Who File Nomination Papers. – I. Declarations of intent for each candidate for president who seeks nomination by nomination papers shall be in the form provided in paragraph II. Declarations of intent required by this section shall be filed with the secretary of state, signed by the candidate, and notarized by a notary public. II. I, __________, swear under penalties of perjury that I am qualified to be a candidate for president of the United States pursuant to article II, section 1, clause 4 of the United States Constitution, which states, “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirtyfive years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.” I further declare that I am domiciled in the city (or town or unincorporated place) of __________, county of __________, state of __________, and am a qualified voter therein; that I intend to be a candidate for the office of president to be chosen at the general election to be held on the __________ day of __________; and I intend to file nomination papers by the deadline established under RSA 655:43. I further declare that, if qualified as a candidate for said office, I shall not withdraw; and that, if elected, I shall be qualified for and shall assume the duties of said office.

        • mickquinas says:

          If convicted, the former president could not be a qualified voter in the city, county, and state where he is domiciled until completing all the terms of his sentencing (Florida disenfranchises convicted felons as a default). It’s not clear to me that this would disqualify him from the ballot in NH although it would complicate his filing of the declaration of intent if he has not done so already.

          If your point was that conviction was not a bar to nomination or election (at least in New Hampshire), I apologize for missing it.

        • farmfresh says:

          You might underestimate the FL GOP. I’m sure if being a qualified voter in FL were ever to imperil his ability to appear on the ballot in FL or any other state, the legislature and governor would pass a special exemption for him.

        • theGeoguy says:

          The “Resign to Run” rule in Florida was removed so DeSantis could run for president. See a non-paywalled article by Politico on 4/28/23: “Florida Legislature passes bill allowing DeSantis to run for president as governor”

      • Jim Luther says:

        I think that the Atlanta grand jury points to Trump’s legal strategy. Each time the Atlanta grand jury investigating the alleged conspiracy voted to decide whether to recommend indicting former President Donald Trump, one person said no. In votes on the legality of Mr. Trump’s phone call pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, on his contacts with other Georgia officials and on his national efforts to overturn the presidential election, there was always a lone holdout – and, in some instances, several abstentions.

        He is well aware that the law is not on his side, but all he needs is one juror – and I have plenty of family and friends that would not convict him if he stood “in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot somebody”.

        • BirdGardener says:

          It seems to me that the more people say, ‘all he needs is one juror to vote no,’ the more we validate that as an option. People will absorb the idea that this is something a juror can do, regardless of the evidence or the judge’s instructions.

          The more often we repeat something, even something untrue, the more people begin to believe it, even if it directly contradicts their own observation of reality. That’s how Trump’s lies and the Republican smear campaigns work!

          Why help them? !

        • Jim Luther says:

          What does “the more we validate that as an option” even mean. I suggest that the three most likely outcomes of this mess is (1) the old, obese, defendant dies before a jury trial, (2) at least one juror will not opt to convict in any circumstances, or (3) he opts for the (IMHO very realistic) mental incapacity defense. My, your, or anyone else’s “validation” is meaningless. The GOP strategy works because their supports reject objective reality and logic/reason as a basis for making decisions.

      • Ed Peters says:

        Once, a feral cat got trapped in my garage. I wanted to take it to the shelter, but couldn’t catch it. So I opened the doors leading to a 4′ x 5′ bathroom and chased it in, closed the door, and left for an hour hoping it would calm down and I could catch it. When I opened the door it bolted out and by me into the house. The entire bathroom was spattered with cat crap. I never tried to catch a feral cat after that.

        Trump may not be convicted, or burn down the system, but he will leave a lot of crap to clean up.

        • Susan D Einbinder says:

          There was a dedicated MAGA person on the jury for Trump’s trial for sexual harassment who voted for guilty. After the trial was over, the person was interviewed and still seemed stunned that Trump, who was venerated and idolized, could have been so awful. And let’s face it: The guy is truly, seriously, unabashedly horrible, so I’m holding out hope that whomever is on the jury will be convinced, given what appears to be overwhelming evidence of guilt…

    • wa_rickf says:

      Being self-aware requires the ability to think and rationalize provided information – which in turn, requires intelligence. I’ve never read anywhere that Donald Trump processes this skill set.

  4. flounder says:

    I know I’m beating a dead horse, but every one of these insurrectionists would have a much better chance of pushing responsibility not to Trump, but to Fox News. There’s $800 million worth the evidence that they saw their audience as pliable and ignorant “cousin fucking terrorists” yet were negligent enough to knowingly sell these terrorists on the false idea that taking back the Capitol after Biden stole the election was the right and patriotic thing to do. And it was all for a ratings drive.
    If a bartender can get charged for and share responsibility for overserving a patron who crashes their car, I fail to see why 1/6 insurrectionists who watched Tucker religiously don’t use the same reasoning.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      I’ve had a similar gut reaction, flounder. The problems with your logical suggestion, however, include the fact that few of the rioters have the kind of funds (or potential ROI for plaintiff’s lawyers) that Dominion did; many of those I could track were radicalized online, not via Fox or not mainly via Fox; those who were jump-started by Fox tend to remain loyal viewers.

  5. Spencer Dawkins says:

    Just for the record, hearing someone, especially Trump, complain how unfairly they are being treated now triggers me in ways Pavlov could never have triggered his dogs.

    Thank you for posting this.

  6. SteveBev says:

    The primary goals of the SC response were
    1 to focus on what the properly applicable legal standards required; and 2 to establish the true facts circumstances and proper context of remarks relied on and cherry picked by the Defendant in asserting his claim of bias.

    As to the latter as RW has set out SC seized the opportunity the motion presented for rehearsing the claims of convicted J6ers of having acted at the behest of Trump and others. And it is a tour-de-force, mercilessly pressing on the Defendant’s self inflicted wound.

    But the SC also takes the opportunity to expose and condemn the methods of argument used by the Defendant(‘s lawyers).
    The SC does not go so far as to state directly that the argument made by the Defendant were bad faith constructions, but such a conclusion is the natural consequence of the points made in the SC argument. The SC repeatedly sets forth throughout the response:
    the flaws in reasoning;
    the failures to refer to appropriate legal standards coupled with inappropriate citing inapplicable case law (which leads to the comment -“ The reason for the Defendant’s omissions is clear: he cannot meet these standards, so he seeks to elide them”);
    misleading representations of fact;
    failures to lay factual foundations for assertions; (“And while the defendant seeks to avoid the applicable legal standard by asserting that the Court’s opinion derives from some source outside the court room… he provides no basis for this claim”);
    reliance on unwarranted inference and innuendo.

  7. Yogarhythms says:

    Ew, Flounder,
    Excellent thread showing SC diligence in motion. Flounder, bartenders have been found liable for claims based on scientific quantification measuring inebriating substances present in defendants body provided by bartender at the time of the accident. Mental health at present lacks the process of scientific quantification for measuring thought inebriation provided by speaker necessary for liability to attach to a third party for defendants actions.

    • Rugger_9 says:

      Tendencies are not necessarily causation. For every rioter that went to DC there are thousands exposed to the same messaging that did not. For that reason, it will be harder to stick it to Faux News.

  8. bloopie2 says:

    The way that this “one level removed” evidence of wrongdoing by these folks piles up, and is in the record if not necessarily admitted at trial, is fun to watch. As one example, we know that Eastman is undergoing disbarment proceedings in California. He just called as a witness the author of a report that damned the integrity of the Georgia election. On cross examination, the witness was unable to identify the origin of one of the most damning claims – that at least 873 deceased people’s votes were counted. Another argument discredited.

    I guess my point is that all these weak spots, in the conspirators’ thousand and one arguments, are seeing the light of day in the numerous ancillary proceedings going on right now. Not in the big fancy trials themselves, but in the preliminary bouts, the undercard. I hadn’t realized that would happen. And I look forward to many more.

    • Ed Peters says:

      “I hadn’t realized that would happen.”

      Me neither. I was getting frustrated by all these idiotic legal moves Trump and his minions are making, but I realize now how satisfying and useful it is to set the record straight and put the big picture into one case.

      Trump thrashes hard, but seems to only reliably hurt himself. My advice to him is as my sister used to say to her cat when she wanted to hold it: “the more you struggle, the more it will hurt”.

      • Bruce Olsen says:

        Your sister has had good luck with cats, then.

        Most potential captors will decide the price is too high.

        But Trump clearly thinks his claws are up to the task.

        • vinniegambone says:

          “A man that holds a cat by the tail learns something he can’t learn any other way .”
          ” Mark Twain

  9. Rugger_9 says:

    I’ll agree this is a messaging motion, and FWIW, DOJ responded very well. It’s not like SC Smith hadn’t seen similar stuff in the Hague from other tinpot dictators. But, who is the message for really acknowledging that the grifting and other fundraising activities would occur with or without this motion?

    I suspect this is a dog whistle for the MAGA wing of SCOTUS to throw a bunch of arguments out there for Alito (et al) to turn into a pretzel precedent. Chutkan isn’t going to buy it, nor the DCC but SCOTUS just might.

    • jdmckay8 says:

      Chutkan isn’t going to buy it, nor the DCC but SCOTUS just might.

      Sure. But this is just a snapshot in time illustrating the same theme at the heart of the anxiety and dichotomy ripping the country apart. At least for me and a lot of the people I talk to this anxiety is grounded in a lot of big events in the last 20 years that changed the course of history in deleterious ways, have been propelled by the messaging (look over there!!!) to the exclusion of right-vs-wrong judgement of actions being considered. People in position to do something about it cower in fear they play it safe… which is another way of saying they cheered on the crimes (or at least bad, sometime very bad bad behavior).

      Just in this thing (Smith’t work and charges related to circumstances related to Jan. 6), at the very least I am cognizant of all Trump’s Cabinet level and high level advisors that resigned just before and after (I don’t remember exact dates) Jan. 6: Elaine Chao, Barr, (I think ???) Esper and a few others; none of ’em would say the obvious, that Trump had become unhinged and more or less scared the shit out of them.

      All, built on the lie the election was stolen.

      This is what this big mess has in common with the others: the bad guys built their desire, followed by media-saturating-messaging, on a lie. For GWB and Iraq, it was multiple big lies: Sadam had WMD, Sadam was tied to 9/11 (almost entirely disproven by facts available publicly if they took the time to investigate), and that anyone who didn’t line up was an enemy and not a Patriot. GWB the same: lie (which his admin had to have choreographed) about the incubator babies, and (IMO) worse 100% ignoring Kuwait had been angle drilling across the border stealing Iraq’s oil. Iraq had taken this to UN (at least) twice, and Bush’s team vetoed it.

      There’s a lot of deja vu at this moment in time.

      The $m question for me is, will something happen this time that leads to a different outcome.

      • bloopie2 says:

        Then there was the Libya lie — we need to get rid of the evil Khadaffi. Well, we did. As a result, the country has been in chaos and civil war for 12 years, little or no maintenance work has been done on the infrastructure, and two dams went down this week, killing thousands. And of course there was the big lie that killed 50,000 American youth in Vietnam. Perhaps those “we need to go to war” big lies won’t be repeated for a while, but these other ones you cite have arisen to take their place. It never ends, does it?

        • jdmckay8 says:

          There’s a lot of people, not least of which are in media, who could be painting this clearly, and illustrate we are right waist deep in the same o’le now. One of the most obvious things when considering all these other times (major event driven by lies) is: the truth is not a partisan thing.

          We have +/- 1/2 our voting public taking action based on lies they have force fed so many. There are a lot of broken parts right now.

      • Jim Luther says:

        Another $m question is if the inability to make a right-wrong judgement is new, or if it is simply more visible due to changes in media. We have spent over 50 years fighting a war on drugs that the architects admitted was simply an excuse to crack down on liberals and minorities. The McCarthy era was a laundry list of unpunished offenses committed in the name of national security. We have been at war essentially my entire life, but somehow Congress has not declared war since 1942. I’ll suggest that the real precedent for all this was way back in 1865, when yet another batch of traitors walked away without consequence. After all, that war was about “States’ Rights!!!”, not slavery wasn’t it? [sarcasm intended]

  10. SteveBev says:


    Trump’s argument on recusal is so thin, and contrary to controlling authorities that surely even the most ardent pro-Trump Justice would be embarrassed to give it the time of day? Of course I maybe wrong about that, but I just read this motion as a dog-whistle to the true believer base, not least because they expect, and almost require him to carry on whinging about witch-hunt and for him to be seen to be making a show of fighting back at every opportunity.

    In addition to the grifting, he wants a noisy storm around these proceedings, so that he can point to the proceedings as the cause of division in the nation, while he is just the victim and so seed the jury pool with disinformation.

    • hstancat says:

      Do you automatically assume that Ginny Thomas’ spouse is NOT part of the “true believer base?” Even though SCOTUS as a whole has drawn a couple modest limits on Trump in the past, I question anyone’s ability to predict how far the current SCOTUS and other large portions of the federal judiciary will go to nullify this criminal prosecution. Same goes for how they would treat any prosecution of Congress members (Republicans at least) for an attempted coup . Their BS major question doctrine is a sufficient basis by itself for justifying ANY steps they might take to kill off all attempts at accountability.

      It’s an American tradition. Ford pardoned Nixon. Countless Confederate traitors regained political power. It could easily happen again.

      • SteveBev says:

        I have little doubt that Ginny’s best friend would do his utmost.

        But I suspect that even he would require a stronger hook than this recusal argument to hang his hat on.

        • FiestyBlueBird says:

          I don’t. He’s rotten to the core. He’s already been a lone vote on one or more Trump things that came before them.

        • timbozone says:

          Have to agree with that assessment. Both he and Alito want to remain on take. To do that easier, they need Trump back in power.

  11. Rayne says:

    Special Counsel went easy in response. Could have glutted the reply with photos to make the point Trump was the driving force.

    A pro-Trump crowd gathers outside the U.S. Capitol before the insurrection on Jan. 6.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

    • CaptainCondorcet says:

      Funny, and it reminds me of something I started wondering after the second indictment. These are highly complex legal issues, some with little to no precedent, that would be incredibly difficult to boil down for an average citizen willing to listen to their attorneys. And Trump allegedly won’t read much beyond a paragraph at a time if there’s no pictures or charts. I wonder how much HE knows about his trials at this point, and how much more he would know if they had taken your advice and put in some photos and pictures.

    • Rayne says:

      Just how do you think it looks from this side — the side of Americans who check boxes like Asian/Black/Hispanic/Pacific Islander/Native American/Other?

      It looks like white supremacists don’t want anyone not white — non-white — to vote or to participate in the judicial branch except for those who are willing to internalize oppression and act as proxies for white supremacy.

      When I wrote “non-white,” that’s exactly what I meant. Trump doesn’t want anyone judging him except a white judge, and preferably one chosen by a white supremacy-approved president.

      White people need to take a seat and stop policing speech critical of white supremacy.

      • Rayne says:

        Let me point out that Trump wants a white male judge appointed by a white male president if not a white male GOP president, because he’s all about 18 U.S.C. 241.

        Arizona and New Mexico’s fake elector ops were intended to deny the civil rights of primarily Native American and Hispanic voters;
        Michigan’s fake elector op was intended to deny the civil rights of primarily Black, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern voters;
        Nevada’s fake elector op was intended to deny civil rights to primarily Black, Hispanic, Asian, and multi racial voters;
        Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin’s fake elector ops was intended to deny civil rights to Black and Hispanic voters.

        It looks like non-white voters were preferred, and if you want to look hard at who voted for Trump, an overwhelming majority of his party’s voters were white.

    • timbozone says:

      Imma gonna go with letting individuals decide on what they’d like to be termed as representing as a default. If that sticks in my craw then I’d better have a damned good argument why they might be wrong.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Hilarious that Trump’s attorneys raised as a reason for Chutkan’s recusal that she might have considered information from outside her court room, when that’s exactly what the GOP House leaders were urging Noreika to consider in the Hunter Biden case.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nice summation by prosecutors of Trump’s approach in attempting to force Tanya Chutkan to recuse herself:

    “[i]n the wrong hands, a disqualification motion is a procedural weapon to harass opponents and delay proceedings. If supported only by rumor, speculation, or innuendo, it is also a means to tarnish the reputation of a federal judge.”

    If successful in removing Chutkan, Trump would repeat this endlessly, until there were no more federal judges to consider. In his view, any attempt to judge or to hold him accountable is inherently biased, unfair, and an existential threat to humanity.

  14. Tech Support says:

    “Arguably, you sold your country out”

    It feels strange to see that comment from Judge Sullivan again and to think about how much has transpired since THAT transcript was being quoted and discussed here.

  15. Martin Lydick says:

    Re: nothing in particular I guess.
    Although I’d thought I was past shaking my head at the absolute stupidity of MAGA terrorists I was presented another example of same just the other day. I’m fortunate enough to have the resources to enjoy sport fishing out of San Diego on large boats. It is not a cheap hobby. Researching my next charter I was lucky enough to see interior images of the galley/dining salon, and lo and behold, prominently displayed in an honorary centered position on one of the “picture” windows was a large scale “Fuck Biden” poster. I immediately crossed that boat off the list of possibilities, and when my nephew asked why – I told him it was my money and that there was no way I was going to spend three/four days on a boat full of Nazis.

    • GSSH-FullyReduced says:

      Yeh, I’ve seen the same posters and bumperstickers often on monster-trucks, speedboats and at race events, gun shows and country fairs, etc. It’s quite provocative.
      Reasonable people can disagree reasonably but will Oregon really give that much land to Idaho just because 5x less weaponized MAGATs don’t agree with the libs west of the Cascades?

        • Alzero53 says:

          It might make economic sense to let them go. I’m sure there is a constant transfer of funds from the blue parts of the state to the MAGA red parts. Just as there is at the federal level. Perhaps someone with more knowledge than me can dissect the effect on the number of representatives in the House?

        • bmaz says:

          How is Idaho going to service these “new residents”? Idaho is not exactly the economic engine California and Oregon are. Also concerned about enlarging and enhancing one of the most extremist states in the country.

        • GSSH-FullyReduced says:

          The “new residents” are mostly libertarians who service themselves, living (as tax-free as possible) off public lands to hunt, fish, feed their cattle, irrigate their grass, homeschool their spawn, play army, and barter for ammo. The blue parts of Greater Idaho will pay for any other services. Sorry for the snark, I used to visit Malheur a lot before it got bloody…Red.

        • Alzero53 says:

          Gosh, who cares how Idaho will pay for them or provide services? That’s their worry, not Oregon’s. iI they take them in and given the opportunity, they would, then let them freeze in the dark for all I care!

        • bmaz says:

          I care. And I very much do not want stupid things to occur. This country owes its citizens a fair shake, not just shuffling them along because we disagree with them.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Everyone should care, separate and apart from enhancing the political muscle of one of the most radical right, isolationist, and devoted to minority rule communities in the US.

          And, yeah, living off public lands for next to no fees is not practicing independence. It is enjoying living off public subsidies that are just not as obvious as the vast benefits paid to petroleum companies or the paltry benefits paid to the poor.

        • GSSH-FullyReduced says:

          It’s not really OT to digress about this subject here because it’s becoming a huge problem for those of us who DO care. Yes, apart from enhancing the political muscle of these secessionists trying to jam their world view down our collective throats, it’s deeply offensive to not be able to enjoy our public lands for fear of stepping on a wasp-hive of wingnuts who have nested in the ‘rural’ zip codes of our country. Try reading some of Lee Childs’ not so fictional stories, (e.g. Die Trying) to get a feel for what’s really out there. Sorry, just had to rant after what Martin Lydick posted (who had the smarts to not share a bunk onboard THAT sport fishing boat).

        • CovariantTensor says:

          I’m not sure what about Lee Child’s stories is anything but entertaining, guilty pleasure fiction.

        • ButteredToast says:

          This is no different from the inhumane attitude some MAGA adherents express toward residents of “blue” states or areas. Aside from that, think about the precedent that redrawing the Oregon/Idaho border would set. Other fringe movements exist elsewhere to redraw state boundaries or create new states because of political disagreements between residents. Invitations for mass chaos.

  16. vinniegambone says:

    If Judge Chutkan approves DOJ restraining order on Defendant’s disparaging remarks and he violates them, is it feasible she could order him to appear in her court everytime he does so ? He would hate that.

    Now, Mr . Trump would you like to make any of the statements you have been marking about me to my face ? Mr. Smith is right here. Anything you would like to say about him ? Just keep making him appear in court in every instance of infraction. Anyone know the case law on past consequences for violators of orders like this?

    Unique case of course because he is running for president , but an order is an order is an order.

    Let’s get this decided as quick as possible by Supreme Court. Then he can disparage them if they uphold Judge Chutkan’s order. This behavior is not a legal strategy, it is a political strategy. Yank the fugger in every time he flaps his lips and violates the order.

    If he can’t rail and flail it will be him wanting the trial sped up so he can quickly go back to publicly crying.
    How do folks here think this confrontation is going to play out ?

    • hstancat says:

      I wish she would require him to attend the hearing(s) on both DOJ’s witness intimidation and defense recusal issues. Would be even better if she swears him in and requires to explain why he claims she is biased and offer him an opportunity to disavow terrorism. Is that allowed? Would it be counterproductive to the goal of getting this prosecution done cleanly?

        • hstancat says:

          This guy is going one on one with the judge in fora where he knows she cannot respond. You’re the criminal defense counsel; I’m not. You tell me how federal judges normally react when a criminal defendant (or any party really) personally challenges them. While most stay above the fray, not all do. IMO it would be entirely appropriate to conduct an evidentiary hearing on the disputed factual issues presented. And that hearing would be perfect place for the judge to give him an opportunity to put up on the record or shut up. And when he fails to put his ass where his mouth is, then she should make that part of her findings.

          [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username and email address each time you comment so that community members get to know you. You published this comment under your real name which I have edited this one time to match your regular username; your comments may not clear in the future if you do not use the same username. /~Rayne]

        • bmaz says:

          “You tell me how federal judges normally react when a criminal defendant (or any party really) personally challenges them.”

          Not well usually. And, yes, they have many ways to do so.

  17. Mr. Natch says:

    When hearing about all the sloppy legal work by Trump’s attorneys, I keep wondering if he’s convicted, can he appeal because he was represented by incompetent counsel?

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