Judge Chutkan

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I want to go back to something I noted earlier. The American Republic and the Constitution that sets out its rules and structure are the anchor of the law and the rule of law in this country. Attempts to overthrow the government, to overthrow the Constitution, are the gravest crimes since they challenge the basis of every other law. Murder may come with a stiffer sentence, but attempts to overthrow the Republic itself is still a graver offense.

I noticed this quote from Judge Tanya Chutkan, the D.C. district court judge who has drawn the Trump coup indictment: “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.” As John Light notes here, Chutkan is known for her tough sentences for January 6th defendants.

She made this statement when sentencing a January 6th defendant back in 2021. So the references to assaulting law enforcement officers aren’t directly relevant. But I was struck by the reference to “trying to violently overthrow the government.” She’s certainly not the only one to have used this phrasing. But I remain very aware that many still refer to trying to “overturn the election” and shy away from the charge of attempting to overthrow the government. But really, the election is the government. The legitimacy of the government is inextricably tied to the legitimacy of each election and the peaceful transfer of power that it mandates. They’re one and the same.

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