WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump immediately appealed Wednesday, after a federal judge rejected his request late Tuesday to block the release of documents to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan declined to issue a preliminary injunction sought by Trump’s lawyers. Chutkan said President Joe Biden was “best positioned” to determine whether to waive executive privilege on documents sought by the House.
“At bottom, this is a dispute between a former and incumbent President,” Chutkan wrote. “And the Supreme Court has already made clear that in such circumstances, the incumbent’s view is accorded greater weight.”
She denied the injunction by ruling that the public interest was well served by the committee’s inquiry.
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“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,” Chutkan said.
She ruled that Trump was unlikely to succeed in the case or suffer irreparable harm from the release of the documents.
Trump “does not acknowledge the deference owed” to Biden’s judgment as the current president, Chutkan said. However, she added, “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.”
Trump’s lawyer, Jesse Binnall, appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of of Appeals, arguing that the National Archives and Records Administration would release the documents Friday if not blocked. The case is likely to reach the Supreme Court.
Biden largely waived executive privilege on records that would be given to the committee, which 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 by the National Archives. There are also copies of talking points from then-press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and “a draft Executive Order on the topic of election integrity,” the National Archives has said.
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The House committee is investigating what led to the deadly insurrection and what happened on Jan. 6, with a goal of preventing another attack. More than 600 people face criminal charges after a mob stormed the Capitol and temporarily halted the counting of Electoral College votes that confirmed Biden won the 2020 election. About 140 police officers were injured in the attack and police shot a woman to death outside the House chamber.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised the ruling by saying nobody could stand in the way of pursuing the truth about that dark day in history.
“The District Court has delivered an important victory for the Constitution, the rule of law and the American people, in ruling to decisively reaffirm the House’s broad investigatory powers and to reject the past president’s attempted obstruction of the investigation into the deadly Jan. 6th insurrection,” Pelosi said.
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 damage executive privilege for future presidents, Trump’s lawyers argued.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who chairs the House committee, told CNN Tuesday that Chutkan’s ruling was “a big deal” and said Trump should stop behaving like a “spoiled brat.”
“I look forward to getting this information,” Thompson said. “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.”
Contributing: The Associated Press