A federal judge on Tuesday denied former President Donald Trump’s request to prevent congressional investigators from receiving a trove of executive branch records tied to the January 6 riot, as a House select committee investigates the attack on the Capitol.
D.C. Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Trump’s argument — offered in a lawsuit against the House committee and the National Archives and Records Administration last month — that a set of documents requested by lawmakers fall under “executive privilege,” a legal doctrine that allows the president to keep certain communications secret.
The judge sided with the House committee, which argued executive privilege is intended to protect the executive branch and the current president, not a former president.
Chutkan said President Joe Biden — who declined to block a committee request for an initial round of Trump-era records last month — is better-positioned to weigh the executive branch’s best interests than Trump or a federal court, so Trump needs to defer to Biden.
The National Archives and Records Administration told Trump last month it plans to hand over an initial set of records to the House’s January 6 committee on November 12, unless a court intervenes, according to Chutkan’s ruling.
“Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” Chutkan wrote.
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Shortly after Chutkan’s ruling, Trump’s attorneys filed a notice of appeal, meaning the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will have a chance to weigh in on his request.
Composed of seven Democrats and two Republicans, the January 6 committee has cast a wide net, asking for documents and testimony tied to both the Capitol riot and Trump’s months-long effort to overturn his election loss. It has subpoenaed more than a dozen former Trump administration staffers and outside allies, and it asked the National Archives to hand over a range of government records, including White House communications on the day of the riot and records tied to false voter fraud allegations. Trump argued the records are protected by executive privilege, a claim Biden has rejected, leading Trump to file a lawsuit arguing the requests were part of a “vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration.”
Trump’s executive privilege claims have led some witnesses to question the January 6 committee’s subpoenas. Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon declined to testify or turn over records, leading the House of Representatives to hold him in contempt, and former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark told lawmakers last week he can’t answer questions.