Trump’s DC Judge – Evidence of Bias
This past week, the Government submitted a proposed protective order in its DC case against Donald Trump. It was broad, proposing the Court restrict Trump’s ability to communicate any exculpatory evidence to the broader public during the 2024 election: all materials provided by the Government could only be used by Trump and his attorneys “solely in connection with the defense of this case, and for no other purpose.”
That request was made to Obama-nominated District of Columbia Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan, who oversees Trump’s DC case. For context, that case undoubtedly involves hundreds of witnesses, terabytes of information, and millions of pages of documents. Typically, Judge Chutkan would allow for at least one week for Trump’s team to file a response. (the Court’s local rules allow 14 days to respond to motions). How do we know that? Because we went through Judge Chutkan’s other cases where a protective order was disputed – more on that below.
Curiously, however, Judge Chutkan decided to demand an expedited briefing and hearing schedule – against the reasonable requests of Trump’s attorneys, who requested just a little bit extra time. Here’s the timeline:
August 4, 2023: Special Counsel Smith files his motion for protective order.
August 5, 2023: Trump is ordered to file his response to the motion for protective order by 5:00 on Monday, August 7, 2023.
August 5, 2023: Trump’s lawyers file a motion to revise the briefing schedule on the government’s motion for protective order, seeking only three extra days – a deadline of August 10. This is under the timeframe discussed in the Court’s local rules, which allow for 14 days to respond to motions.)
August 5, 2023: Judge Chutkan denies Trump’s requested extension.
August 7, 2023: Trump’s lawyers file their response to the government’s proposed protective order. Judge Chutkan demands dates and times for a hearing on the protective order, which she orders to take place by August 11, 2023.
August 8, 2023: Trump and the Special Counsel file their joint notice. Special Counsel says it is available “at any time on August 9, 10, or 11.” Trump requests a setting on Monday or Tuesday (August 14 or 15) where both of Trump’s lawyers can be present. A very reasonable request.
August 8, 2023: Judge Chutkan denies Trump’s request and sets the protective order hearing for August 11, 2023 – exactly one week after the protective order was filed by Special Counsel Smith.
That’s a quick timeline in any case. The hearing is set a week after Special Counsel Smith filed the motion for protective order. Judge Chutkan only gave Trump’s lawyers two days to respond to that motion – with one of those days being a Sunday. But in a case where the next election might be at stake, it’s unfairly quick, a timeline that Trump’s lawyers observed were “inconsistent with his due process rights.”
Judge Chutkan’s history suggests that she is specifically targeting Trump, treating him worse than other defendants who have faced disputes over protective orders. Let me show you.
Back in 2018, the US Government prosecuted Maria Butina for acting as an agent of Russia without notifying the Attorney General (and for conspiracy to act as a Russian agent). Butina had a much less complicated case as opposed to Trump’s.
Judge Chutkan presided over Butina’s case. The protective order deadlines and hearing dates were much less abbreviated – and much more fair to the defendant. Here they are:
August 8, 2018: Government deadline to file proposed protective order.
August 15, 2018: Butina’s deadline to file objections to the protective order.
September 10, 2018: Status conference to discuss the protective order.
Then there’s the case of DC drug dealer Jeremy Lorenzo Stevenson, which Judge Chutkan also oversaw. He was charged with distributing over five grams of meth. The Government sought a protective order in his case as well – and Judge Chutkan made sure the meth dealer had plenty of time to respond.
June 18, 2019: Government files its motion for protective order.
June 25, 2019: Deadline for Stevenson to respond to the motion for protective order.
July 2, 2019: Status conference to discuss the protective order.
Finally, there’s the case of Brandon James Miller, charged with disorderly conduct and for entering restricted grounds at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Judge Chutkan ordered briefing on the government’s proposed protective order and gave the following dates:
April 23, 2021: Government’s deadline to file its motion for protective order and brief in support.
April 30, 2021: Defendants’ deadline to file their opposition.
May 5, 2021: Government’s reply deadline.
May 26, 2021: Hearing held on the protective order.
As you can see, when the scope of a protective order is disputed, Judge Chutkan typically sets out a reasonable schedule and allows for a defendant to have one week to respond to the government’s proposed protective order. It’s also her standard practice to conduct a hearing on the protective order weeks after it is submitted.
But in Trump’s case, Judge Chutkan trashed her standard practices were discarded. It’s unfair to any defendant – but especially unfair in a case where the terms of the Government’s protective order will prohibit both Trump’s ability to defend himself in public during a presidential campaign and his ability to file “sensitive materials” on the public docket.
You want evidence of bias? There it is.