A federal judge has rejected former President Donald Trump’s request to shield records from lawmakers investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, saying that it’s in the public interest to understand the events that occurred.
Trump has been fighting to stop the National Archives and Records Administration from handing over a slew of documents, including written communications, calendar entries, videos and other media relating to the Trump administration and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by radical Trump supporters.
The committee made the request in late August, but the former president’s legal team has argued that the records should be held from the committee as some of them are protected by executive privilege and because the select panel’s request exceeds Congress’ constitutional power.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected both arguments on Tuesday in her 39-page opinion, stating that while the committee’s requests are broad, they “do not exceed the committee’s legislative powers” and that President Joe Biden was better positioned than the former president to determine what is and isn’t protected by executive privilege.
“Plaintiff argues that the public interest favors enjoining production of the records because the executive branch’s interests are best served by confidentiality and defendants are not harmed by delaying or enjoining the production. Neither argument holds water,” she wrote.
The Biden White House has repeatedly rejected Trump’s attempts to invoke executive privilege powers to keep those documents private.
Chutkan stated that Biden has spoken on the “compelling public interest” in ensuring the committee has access to the requested documents.
“Accordingly, the court holds that the public interest lies in permitting — not enjoining — the combined will of the legislative and executive branches to study the events that led to and occurred on Jan. 6, and to consider legislation to prevent such events from ever occurring again,” she wrote.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the select committee, said Tuesday night that they appreciate the court’s “swift decision” against a lawsuit he considers an attempt to obstruct their investigation.
“There couldn’t be a more compelling public interest than getting answers about an attack on our democracy,” he said in a statement.
The ruling, he added, makes clear that the court respects that both the executive branch and Congress agree the investigation is in the public’s interest while affirming the important of the committee’s work.
“The Select Committee’s investigation is moving forward swiftly, and we look forward to receiving these important records from the national archives,” he said.
Trump plans to appeal the decision, his spokesman Taylor Budowich said in a tweet.
“The battle to defend executive privilege for presidents past, present and future — from its outset — was destined to be decided by the appellate courts,” he said. “Pres. Trump remains committed to defending the Constitution and Office of the Presidency, and will be seeing this process through.”
The ruling by Chutkan came hours after the committee subpoenaed 10 former Trump administration officials, including former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and senior adviser Stephen Miller.
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