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Meet the Obama-Appointed Judge Who Could Send Trump to Prison

The proceedings will be overseen by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan.

In the latest indictment against Donald Trump, the former president is accused of trying to overturn the 2020 election. Trump is charged with four counts: Conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights. The proceedings will be overseen by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who could ultimately sentence Trump to prison if he's found guilty. Here's what you need to know about the judge.

Judge Chutkan Was Appointed By President Obama


A former assistant public defender and partner at a top law firm, Judge Chutkan was nominated to the District Court by President Obama in December 2013. She was confirmed unanimously by the Senate, 95-0. Chutkan assumed her post in 2014.

Judge Chutkan Has Handed Down Tough Sentences Against Jan. 6 Rioters


According to a recent analysis, Chutkan has been strict with Jan. 6 rioters, in some cases giving tougher sentences than prosecutors sought. In one case involving rioters Brandon Miller and Stephanie Miller, prosecutors asked for home confinement and 36 months of probation. Instead, Chutkan sentenced Brandon Miller to 20 days in prison and Stephanie Miller to 14 days. "They didn't just walk through a door. They climbed through a broken window … they knew full well of the violence that had preceded their entry," Chutkan said at the sentencing. "The fact is that they were part of a mob … that was intent on stopping the lawful transfer of power."

What Chutkan Said About Overthrowing the Government

Administrative Office of the US Courts

"Every day we're hearing about reports of anti-democratic factions of people plotting violence, the potential threat of violence, in 2024," she said before sentencing a Florida man who attacked police officers on Jan. 6 to more than five years in prison.  "It has to be made clear that 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 said.

Judge Chutkan Has Previously Ruled Against Trump


In November 2021, Chutkan refused Trump's request to block the release of documents to the House's Jan 6 committee by asserting executive privilege. Chutkan ruled he couldn't hold privilege over documents from his administration; President Biden had cleared the way for the National Archives to turn the papers over. In her ruling, Chutkan wrote, "Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President."

"You Have to Develop a Thick Skin"

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Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Chuktan studied economics at George Washington University and received her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She previously spoke about standing firm in the face of criticism. "For a lot of people, I seem to check a lot of boxes: immigrant, woman, Black, Asian", she said last year during a legal event for African American History Month. "Your qualifications are always going to be subject to criticism and you have to develop a thick skin."


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