District Judge Tanya Chutkan, the judge assigned to preside over former President Donald Trump’s criminal case in Washington, DC, has repeatedly spoken out in very strong terms against the efforts to overturn the election and disrupt the transfer of power.
Chutkan, a Jamaica native, has served as a federal judge since she was appointed by Barack Obama in 2014. After graduating from University of Pennsylvania Law School, Chutkan spent more than a decade working as a public defender in Washington, DC. According to her biography on the court website, Chutkan “argued several appellate cases and tried over 30 cases, including numerous serious felony matters” as a public defender.
Though Chutkan was randomly appointed to oversee the special counsel’s criminal case, she is no stranger to January 6, 2021, litigation.
In November 2021, Chutkan forcefully rejected Trump’s attempts to block the House select committee investigating January 6 from accessing more than 700 pages of records from his White House.
“Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” Chutkan wrote in her ruling.
Chutkan, like many other federal judges in Washington, has presided over dozens of criminal cases against alleged January 6 rioters. She has been outspoken about the riot at several sentencing hearings – calling the violence an assault on American democracy and warning of future danger from political violence – and has repeatedly gone over what prosecutors have requested for convicted rioters’ prison sentences.
At a December 2021 sentencing hearing, she looked ahead to the 2024 election, saying that “every day we are hearing about reports of anti-democratic factions, people plotting potential violence in 2024.”
“It has to be made clear that trying to stop the peaceful transition of power, assaulting law enforcement, is going to be met with certain punishment,” she said.
Chutkan has even tacitly referenced Trump during criminal sentencings, saying to one rioter that he “did not go to the United States Capitol out of any love for our country. … He went for one man.”
At a sentencing hearing on October 4, 2021, she acknowledged the nationwide attention on the Capitol riot cases.
“The country is watching to see what the consequences are for something that has not ever happened in the country before,” Chutkan said, adding that the January 6 rioters “soiled and defaced the halls of the Capitol and showed their contempt for the rule of law.”
At that same hearing, she also rejected comparisons between January 6 and the 2020 protests against racial inequality.
“To compare the actions of people around the country protesting, mostly peacefully, for civil rights, to a violent mob seeking to overthrow the lawfully elected government is a false equivalency and downplays the very real danger that the crowd on January 6 posed to our democracy,” she said.
At a sentencing hearing on October 13, 2021, she decried the historic implications of the “violent occupation of the US Capitol.”
“What you’re being punished for is the 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. Something that has never been interrupted in our country’s history,” she said.
At a sentencing hearing in January 2022, she said the pro-Trump insurrection nearly succeeded.
“This wasn’t Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” Chutkan said before sentencing two friends who came to the Capitol. “They came to Washington knowing full well the events of January 6,” adding that “their actions were an assault on the American people.”
She added: “This was a violent attempted overthrow of the government … and it almost succeeded.”