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Trump Can’t Block Probe of Jan. 6 Attack on Capitol

November 10, 2021 by Dan McCue
Protestors approach the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump cannot block access to White House records from a House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, siege on the U.S. Capitol, a federal judge ruled.

“While broad, these requests, and each of the other requests made by the committee, do not exceed the committee’s legislative powers,” U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote in her decision.

Trump’s attorneys had argued the materials requested — telephone records, visitor logs and other documents — were covered by the legal doctrine of executive privilege which protects the confidentiality of some White House communications.

Specifically, Trump had requested an injunction blocking the National Archives, the federal agency that now holds his administration’s records, from complying with the committee’s requests for hundreds of pages of documents.

“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,” Chutkan wrote, summing up Trump’s argument.

“Neither argument holds water,” she said. “First, the incumbent president has already spoken to the compelling public interest in ensuring that the Select Committee has access to the information necessary to complete its investigation. 

“And second, the court will not give such short shrift to the consequences of ‘halt[ing] the functions of a coordinate branch,’” Chutkan continued. “Binding precedent counsels that judicially imposed delays on the conduct of legislative business are often contrary to the public interest.

“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 said.

Chutkan also weighed in on the committee’s argument that discovering and coming to terms with the causes underlying the Jan. 6 attack “is a matter of unsurpassed public importance because such information relates to our core democratic institutions and the public’s confidence in them.”

The judge said she agreed with that statement.

“As the Supreme Court has explained, ‘The American people’s ability to reconstruct and come to terms’ with their history must not be truncated by an analysis of presidential privilege that focuses only on the needs of the present.’

“The desire to restore public confidence in our political process, through information, education, and remedial legislation, is of substantial public interest,” Chutkin concluded.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the ruling “an important victory for the Constitution, the rule of law and the American people.”

“No one can be allowed to stand in the way of the truth — particularly not the previous president, who instigated and encouraged the insurrection. As the ruling states,”‘Presidents are not Kings, and plaintiff is not president,’” Pelosi wrote in a statement released while she was attending the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

“The violent domestic attack on Congress on Jan. 6 was an attempt to overthrow the government and to subvert American democracy itself. This ruling clearly reaffirms the power and importance of the Select Committee to pursue its prerogative to conduct oversight and find the truth, to protect the Capitol and defend democracy,” Pelosi said.

Trump has already filed a court notice indicating he would appeal the decision.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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