In a brief portion of a recent and wide-ranging ruling from federal Judge Tanya Chutkan rejecting various arguments from Trump, she effectively rebuffed the longstanding complaint from the former president that he’s being politically persecuted. She was speaking in the context of the case from Special Counsel Jack Smith alleging a series of election-related conspiracies.
In practical terms, Trump’s sought to make a connection between at least the federal criminal charges he’s facing and political machinations by sitting President Joe Biden, but there is no evidence of any direct involvement by the current commander-in-chief in the prosecutions of the ex-president. Trump has also more generally characterized the various proceedings he’s facing as election interference because of his ongoing campaign for president — though he announced that campaign after a series of investigations that have since produced charges were already known, meaning the investigations actually came first.
Chutkan’s comments applied specifically to the idea that Trump is facing current charges because of political reasons rather than also the complaint from the ex-president that people are just scheming against him for personal reasons.
“Defendant contends that impeachment serves to protect officials from political attacks by their enemies, and allowing prosecution following impeachment acquittal would undermine that protection,” Chutkan said in her ruling. “But politics are likely to play even larger a role in impeachments than in prosecutions, given that impeachments are conducted by elected officials politically accountable to their constituents, whereas prosecutions are conducted by appointed officials, most of whom may not be removed without cause.”
She was refuting claims from Trump that protections from potentially future criminal prosecutions followed any impeachment that ended in an acquittal by the Senate. She also noted that “former officials like Defendant, rather than current officials, are also less likely to be politically attacked, because they no longer hold the power and authority of political office” — undercutting from multiple angles the idea that Trump is a political victim. Almost by necessity, the politics came earlier, Chutkan generalized.