WASHINGTON — A judge on Tuesday night ruled against Donald Trump’s request to conceal records related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote 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 January 6, and to consider legislation to prevent such events from ever occurring again.”
Trump almost immediately filed a notice of appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
Chutkan’s ruling comes a week after she heard arguments from Trump’s lawyer to stop the National Archives from turning over Trump administration records to the House panel investigating the attack on the Capitol. Trump contends the documents should be protected by executive privilege and that releasing them would cause irreparable harm.
Chutkan signaled during the Nov. 4 hearing that she was likely to rule against Trump. She questioned if Trump’s right to claim executive privilege was diminished because he’s no longer in office and President Joe Biden had refused to assert it on his behalf. In order for a former president to claim executive privilege over records from his time in office, the request must be supported by the current president.
In Tuesday night’s decision, Chutkan dismissed Trump’s assertion of privilege, especially relative to the will of the sitting president.
“But Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” she wrote. “He retains the right to assert that his records are privileged, but the incumbent President ‘is not constitutionally obliged to honor’ that assertion.”
Chutkan sided with Trump’s lawyers saying the records request from the congressional committee investigating Jan. 6 was “broad” but ultimately that it was in the scope of the committee’s powers.
The National Archives are slated to release the information to the House panel on Nov. 12. Anticipating a potential loss, Trump’s lawyers tried to file a preemptive request earlier in the week for a temporary injunction to keep the records secret while they pursued any appeal. Chutkan denied the motion less than two hours after it was filed, explaining that it was premature and that she would consider such a request after she ruled.
Trump’s attempt to suppress documents related to Jan. 6 is his most recent attempt at obstructing the House panel’s investigation. Last month, Steve Bannon, a former Trump aide, refused to comply with a subpoena to testify at Trump’s direction. The House voted to hold Bannon in criminal contempt and referred the case to the Justice Department for officials to decide whether to pursue charges. Asked on Nov. 8 for an update on the status of Bannon’s case, Attorney General Merrick Garland said DOJ was following the “normal” process for reviewing these types of referrals but declined to provide details, citing department policy to not comment on pending matters.
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