West Virginia AG Backs Trump’s Push to Move Jan 6 Case out of DC, Into His State

West Virginia AG Backs Trump’s Push to Move Jan 6 Case out of DC, Into His State
Former President Donald Trump holds an umbrella as he arrives at Reagan National Airport following an arraignment in a Washington court in Arlington, Va., on Aug. 3, 2023. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Republican West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is adding his voice to calls for the U.S. Department of Justice to move its latest case against former President Donald Trump out of the District of Columbia and over to his state.

“Donald Trump is not going to get a fair shake in DC, the home of the Swamp,” Mr. Morrisey said in a post on X on Thursday. “If prosecutors insist on proceeding with this politicized case, they should move the venue to West Virginia. West Virginians believe in upholding the rule of law and don’t support a double-standard of justice. #VenueWV.”

Mr. Morrisey made his comments about the court venue as Mr. Trump faced arraignment in a D.C. federal court on Thursday on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy against rights, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, and obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding. The case centers on Mr. Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election results and his actions leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, when demonstrators entered the U.S. Capitol and disrupted a congressional session to certify the election results.

In a Wednesday evening post on his Truth social media account, Mr. Trump suggested the case should be moved out of D.C. and named West Virginia as an appropriate alternative.

“The latest Fake ‘case’ brought by Crooked Joe Biden & Deranged Jack Smith will hopefully be moved to an impartial Venue, such as the politically unbiased nearby State of West Virginia! IMPOSSIBLE to get a fair trial in Washington, D.C.” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump went on to describe D.C. as heavily “anti-Trump” and a “high crime embarrassment to our Nation and, indeed, the World.”

The D.C. area is one of the bluest voting areas in the country. More than 92 percent of the vote in D.C. during the 2020 general election went to Mr. Biden, while Mr. Trump garnered just over five percent of the vote in D.C.

The significant partisan slant may bring Mr. Trump an added measure of legal jeopardy since there’s a high likelihood that the jurors called to decide his fate will hold negative views of the president.

West Virginia, by comparison, went to Mr. Trump handily in the 2020 election, but not by nearly the same margin. Mr. Trump won the state with 68.6 percent of the vote against 29.7 percent for Mr. Biden.

Venue Change Faces Tough Odds

While Mr. Trump may seek to move his case out of D.C., he may face similar obstacles as other people who have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol breach.

Numerous Jan. 6 defendants have asked to have their cases taken out of D.C., but they haven’t had much success.

Last fall, lawyers for four members of the Oath Keepers organization requested a change of venue, citing research that nearly 70 percent of Washington respondents hold a negative view of their organization. The motion noted that 51 percent of jury candidates for the case admitted under oath to prejudging the case. The case proceeded in D.C. despite the requests for a change of venue.

In a March decision, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kotelly rejected a Jan. 6 defendant’s request to move the case out of her court, writing that she would deny the request “like every other court of this jurisdiction to consider the same argument.”

The judge overseeing Mr. Trump’s case, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, also has a history of laying out long sentences for Jan. 6 defendants. Judge Chutkan, a former public defender appointed by President Barack Obama, has often met or exceeded the sentencing requests of prosecutors in cases against Jan. 6 defendants.

Judge Chutkan, who has presided over cases involving Mr. Trump in the past, has shown skepticism to other motions his lawyers have made in his defense. Judge Chutkan previously denied Mr. Trump’s attempts to suspend a $10,000-a-day fine levied against him for contempt of court in relation to New York Attorney General Letitia James’s subpoena demanding he turn over any records relating to the business practices of his family company, the Trump Organization.

Judge Chutkan once also chastised Mr. Trump upon denying his executive privilege claims in seeking to avoid turning over White House records to the select House Committee that investigated the Jan. 6 Capitol breach. She wrote that Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments appear “to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity’ . . . but presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.”

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