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Who is Tanya Chutkan – tough judge hearing Trump’s January 6 case

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan is initially assigned to the election fraud case against former President Donald Trump. Administrative Office of the US Courts

US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan has been assigned to preside over former President Donald Trump’s criminal case concerning his alleged role in the interference with the 2020 election. 

Known for her tough sentencing approach, Judge Chutkan’s previous rulings have already dealt blows to the ex-president, providing critical evidence for the congressional investigation. 

Judge Chutkan, 61, a Jamaican-born legal expert who attended George Washington University and later earned her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, has a long-standing reputation as a fierce and fair adjudicator. Her career as a public defender in Washington D.C. spanned over a decade before she was appointed to the federal trial bench in 2014 by President Barack Obama.

In 2021, Judge Chutkan delivered a landmark ruling that allowed the House Jan. 6 select committee access to a treasure trove of White House files, laying bare Trump’s attempts to subvert the election results. This evidence formed the backbone of the committee’s investigation and has now become crucial in the special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump on four counts.

Judge Chutkan’s appointment to oversee the new criminal case against Trump signals a high-stakes legal battle, as she has garnered a reputation for handing out harsh sentences to defendants involved in the January 6 Capitol riots. Of the 31 individuals who appeared before her, every one of them received some form of jail time, often exceeding the recommendations put forth by the justice department.

Her courtroom statements have left no doubt about her stance on political violence and its consequences. “Trying to violently overthrow the government, trying to stop the peaceful transition of power, and assaulting law enforcement officers in that effort is going to be met with absolutely certain punishment,” she had said during a sentencing hearing.

However, despite her hardline approach, Judge Chutkan has expressed frustration that some influential figures who had encouraged violence had not been charged. At a sentencing hearing in 2021, she acknowledged the discrepancy, saying, “The people who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action and to fight have not been charged.”

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