US judge rejects Trump’s bid to keep papers secret in Capitol riot probe

THE US House of Representatives committee investigating the deadly attack on the US Capitol can access former President Donald Trump’s White House records, a federal judge ruled Tuesday, in a clear win for congressional oversight powers.

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan in the District of Columbia rejected an argument by Trump’s lawyers that telephone records, visitor logs and other White House documents should be hidden from the committee.

“While broad, these requests, and each of the other requests made by the Committee, do not exceed the Committee’s legislative powers,” Chutkan said in her decision.

Trump had argued that the materials requested by the House committee were covered by a legal doctrine known as an executive privilege that protects the confidentiality of some White House communications.

He requested an injunction blocking the National Archives, a federal agency that holds his White House records, from complying with the committee’s requests for hundreds of pages of documents.

Jesse Binnall, a lawyer for Trump, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Trump quickly filed a court notice indicating he would appeal the decision.

The committee has said it needs the requested materials to understand the role Trump may have played in fomenting the riot.

“That’s a big deal,” US Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House of Representatives select committee, said in an interview on CNN. 

“I look forward to getting this information. I look forward to our investigators going through it with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that our government was not weaponized against its citizens.”

Chutkan said Trump had not acknowledged “the deference owed to” President Joe Biden’s determination that the committee could access the materials.

“His (Trump’s) position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity,’” Chutkan said. “But Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.”

Subpoenas issued to top aides

Earlier Tuesday, the committee said it had issued subpoenas seeking documents and testimony from more associates of former President Donald Trump, including senior adviser Stephen Miller and former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

The 10 people subpoenaed include White House aides and other officials, including some senior officials, who the committee said were around Trump as thousands of his supporters marched on the seat of the US government as then-Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress met to certify the Republican president’s defeat in the November 2020 election.

Thompson, the committee chair, said in a statement that it wants to “learn every detail of what went on in the White House” on Jan. 6 and the days immediately preceding the attack.

“We need to know precisely what role the former President and his aides played in efforts to stop the counting of the electoral votes and if they were in touch with anyone outside the White House attempting to overturn the outcome of the election,” Thompson said.

The committee asked those subpoenaed to produce documents by Nov. 23 and to appear for depositions behind closed doors from late November until mid-December.

Trump said in a statement that the subpoenas were politically motivated from a select committee of “politically ambitious hacks.”

The panel has now issued at least 35 subpoenas and received testimony from more than 150 witnesses. It had announced six for Trump associates including top aides from the Republican’s failed 2020 re-election campaign on Monday.

The House voted last month to hold longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt over his refusal to cooperate. The Department of Justice has not yet said whether it would pursue criminal contempt charges against Bannon.

Among the others subpoenaed were John McEntee, who was White House personnel director, and Christopher Liddell, a White House deputy chief of staff.

The former Trump aides could not immediately be reached for comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

More than 670 people have been charged with taking part in the riot at the Capitol, a failed bid to prevent Congress from formally certifying Biden’s election victory. It was the worst attack on the seat of the US government since the War of 1812 and the only time power in the United States has not been transferred peacefully.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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