US judge refuses Trump bid to block Capitol riot records

Nov 10, 2021: A federal judge has rejected former President Donald Trump’s request to stop release of the documents pertaining to the January 6 Capitol Riots to the House Committee of Inquiry.

Rejecting the initial restraining order, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said Tuesday that Congress has a public interest in obtaining records that could shed light on the violent uprising by supporters of the former president.

She added that President Joe Biden had the authority to relinquish executive authority over the documents, despite Trump’s other claims.

Barring a court order, the National Archives plans to submit Trump’s record to the committee by Friday. But Trump’s lawyers promised to immediately appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is likely to go to the US Supreme Court.

Trump “does not acknowledge the deference owed” to Biden’s judgement as the current president, Chutkan said. She noted examples of past presidents declining to assert executive privilege and rejected what she said was Trump’s claim that executive privilege “exists in perpetuity”.

“Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” she said.

The records include call logs, drafts of remarks and speeches, and handwritten notes from Trump’s then-Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, according to a court filing before the archives. The National Archives says there are also copies of the then press secretary Kayleigh McEnny and talking points of “a draft executive order on the topic of integrity of the election.”

Democrat Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who chairs the House committee, said in a statement after the ruling that the records were important for understanding the attack and that “in my opinion, there can be no greater public interest.

On CNN, Thompson said Trump should stop behaving like a “spoiled boy.”

The House’s nine-member committee is not only investigating Trump’s behavior on January 6 – when he called for a rally to “fight like hell” shortly before the rioters attacked law enforcement agencies but also in the months leading up to the riots, there were attempts to challenge or disrupt the election results and the peaceful transfer of power

The committee interviewed more than 150 witnesses and issued more than 30 subpoenas, which were announced Tuesday to McEnny and former top adviser Stephen Miller.

It is unclear whether lawmakers will eventually summon Trump to testify. Trump has repeatedly attacked the committee’s work and continued to promote baseless conspiracy theories about widespread electoral fraud, despite the fact that Biden’s victory has been confirmed by all 50 states and Trump’s claims have been rebuffed by courts across the country.

In suing to block the National Archives from turning over documents, Trump called the House panel’s request a “vexatious, illegal fishing expedition” that was “untethered from any legitimate legislative purpose”. Allowing the House to get access to his records would also damage executive privilege for future presidents, Trump’s lawyers argued.

But Judge Chutkan said the “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 January 6, and to consider legislation to prevent such events from ever occurring again”.

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