Trump targets DC judge in 2020 election case

WASHINGTON, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Donald Trump on Sunday targeted the federal judge assigned to the case charging him with seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election, as his lawyer argued that actions Trump took after his loss were just “asks.”

Trump, in a social media post,” said: “THERE IS NO WAY I CAN GET A FAIR TRIAL WITH THE JUDGE ‘ASSIGNED,'” adding that he planned to seek U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s recusal as well as a change of venue outside of Washington.

No formal request was filed with the court as of midday on Sunday. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican 2024 presidential nomination, last week was indicted for a third time. He pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he conspired to defraud the U.S. by preventing Congress from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden’s victory, depriving U.S. voters of their right to a fair election.

Trump faces a 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) Monday deadline to respond to the U.S. government’s proposed protective order aimed at protecting witnesses and evidence in the case after Chutkan denied his bid for a delay.

Trump’s lawyer John Lauro, in a round of television interviews on Sunday, defended the former president’s actions in the wake of his 2020 election loss as petitions but not directives, and criticized the protective order.

“Every single thing that President Trump is being prosecuted for involved aspirational asks – asking state legislatures, asking state governors, asking state electoral officials to do the right thing. In fact, even asking Vice President Pence was protected by free speech,” Lauro told Fox News.

In response, the former vice president, Mike Pence, who is also seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, told CNN on Sunday: “President Trump was wrong then and he is wrong now. I had no right to overturn the election result.”

Pence, threatened by Trump’s supporters Jan. 6, 2021, as he oversaw Congress’ certification of Biden’s victory, has become a central figure in the case and has not ruled out becoming a witness against his former boss.

“They’re throwing everything they can at the wall and they’re trying to see what sticks,” Representative Pete Aguilar, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, told ABC News’ “This Week” program.

Lauro also refused to back a protective order sought by the Department of Justice, saying it would prevent the public and the media from hearing relevant material as case proceeds.

“We will not agree to keep information that is not sensitive from the press,” Lauro told CNN.

Special Counsel Jack Smith on Friday sought the order prohibiting Trump and his lawyers from sharing discovery materials with unauthorized people, citing a Trump social media post that he said raised concerns.

TRUMP CHARGES PILE UP

Smith, in the 45-page indictment last week, acknowledged Trump’s First Amendment right to free speech under the U.S. Constitution but charged him with four counts over actions he took, including conspiracy to defraud the U.S., to deprive citizens of their voting rights, and to obstruct an official proceeding.

Trump, under oath at his arraignment last week, swore not to intimidate witnesses or communicate with them without legal counsel present.

Smith’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Lauro’s remarks.

However, Smith told the court over the weekend that Trump’s team was causing unnecessary delays: “The defendant is standing in the way.”

Trump, 77, has also pleaded not guilty to separate charges by Smith over his handling of classified documents, including top secret materials, after he left office in January 2021.

He also pleaded not guilty to New York state charges in Manhattan that he falsified business records to hide hush money payments to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.

Trump faces a possible fourth criminal indictment this year in Georgia, where state prosecutors are investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss in that state.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has indicated she plans to bring charges in that investigation within weeks, and authorities in Atlanta have tightened security around the county courthouse in preparation for possible charges.

Reporting by Susan Heavey, Kanishka Singh and Leah Douglas; Editing by Heather Timmons, Grant McCool and Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Kanishka Singh is a breaking news reporter for Reuters in Washington DC, who primarily covers US politics and national affairs in his current role. His past breaking news coverage has spanned across a range of topics like the Black Lives Matter movement; the US elections; the 2021 Capitol riots and their follow up probes; the Brexit deal; US-China trade tensions; the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan; the COVID-19 pandemic; and a 2019 Supreme Court verdict on a religious dispute site in his native India.

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