A federal judge who has strongly criticized the January 6 insurrection and handed down prison time to some convicted rioters is set to hear former President Donald Trump’s challenge to a House subpoena of records from his time in office related to the siege.
Judge Tanya Chutkan was assigned to hear Trump’s suit, which lawyers for the former President filed on Monday.
The case represents an early challenge for the bipartisan House select committee investigating the insurrection, with lawyers for Trump now having to convince Chutkan to block the House from getting access to a tranche of Trump-era records, which the Biden administration declined last week to assert executive privilege over, prompting the Trump lawsuit.
Speaking earlier this month at a sentencing hearing for a nonviolent rioter who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally demonstrating in the Capitol, Chutkan made a tacit reference to Trump, saying that the rioter “did not go to the United States Capitol out of any love for our country … He went for one man.”
During the same hearing, she described the January 6 episode as “a violent mob seeking to overthrow the lawfully elected government,” adding that the crowd that day posed a “very real danger … to our democracy.”
Chutkan also said that rioters “soiled and defaced the halls of the Capitol and showed their contempt for the rule of law.”
“The country is watching to see what the consequences are for something that has not ever happened in the country before,” she said.
And last week, Chutkan sentenced two cousins with extensive criminal records to 45 days in jail for storming the Capitol, a somewhat rare punishment among convicted January 6 rioters. In doing so, she blasted the men for their “decision to take that protest and turn it into a violent occupation of the US Capitol … at a time when we were attempting the peaceful transfer of power.”
Chutkan did not preside over Trump’s previous efforts to prevent Congress from obtaining documents, including tax records, or testimony.
But Chutkan handled the criminal proceedings against Maria Butina, a Russian national who pleaded guilty in 2018 to conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government after she tried to infiltrate conservative American political groups and promote Russian interests.
Lawyers for the former President alleged in their suit that the House’s requests for documents from the executive branch “are unprecedented in their breadth and scope and are untethered from any legitimate legislative purpose.”
Attorneys for Trump’s legal team declined CNN’s request for comment.
Chutkan was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2014. She previously worked at both private practices and as a public defender in DC, and conveys a sense of toughness and control over her hearings.
Neil Eggleston, who served for a time as White House counsel under Obama, described Chutkan as an efficient jurist, adding that she likely knows her eventual ruling will be appealed by the losing party.
“Judge Chutkan can handle this quite quickly if she wants to and I think she probably will. She was a very efficient judge. (She will) give each side 10 days to brief it, have a hearing and decide it,” he told CNN. “She knows whatever she decides is not going to stay with her.”
The National Archives is slated to turn over the lawmakers’ requested documents to them by early next month — putting Trump’s court pursuit on a short timeline if he wants to block the release of the information.
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