WASHINGTON (AP) – A federal judge expressed skepticism on Thursday when lawyers for former President Donald Trump asked him to block the delivery of documents requested by a House committee investigating the January 6 insurgency.
Some of the committee’s requests dating back to April 2020 “are alarming in scope,” said US District Judge Tanya Chutkan. But she disagreed with the claims by Trump’s lawyers that Congress had no legislative goal to obtain Trump’s Jan.6 call logs, talking points and other notes. as his supporters stormed the Capitol in hopes of reversing his loss to President Joe Biden.
“The January 6 riot took place on Capitol Hill,” she said. “It is literally the home of Congress.”
Chutkan said she will vote on Trump soon trial seeking to block disclosure of insurgency-related documents to the House committee. Biden widely waived executive privilege over documents held by the White House, setting up a confrontation between Trump and the executive and legislative branches that is likely to go to the Supreme Court.
Files that would be turned over to the committee include call logs, drafts of remarks and speeches and handwritten notes from Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to a National Archives court file. There are also copies of talking points from then-press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and “a draft executive order on the subject of election integrity,” the National Archives said.
Trump’s earlier efforts to withhold income tax returns and other documents of Congress was different because it involved his personal finances, Chutkan said on Friday. The current fight is over documents that “are supposed to strengthen congressional oversight over the events of January 6,” she said.
The judge questioned some of the dozens of requests made by the committee for Trump’s communications and other documents. She asked specific questions about a request for poll data held by Trump campaign officials dating back to April 2020.
Douglas Letter, a House lawyer, argued the polls would give Trump some insight dissemination of baseless conspiracy theories on electoral fraud.
“He didn’t want to lose the election,” Chutkan said at one point. “Do you need survey data to determine that a president running for reelection wants to win and may fear not winning? “
Biden has so far waived executive privilege over nearly all documents requested by the committee, although the committee has agreed to “defer” its requests for several dozen pages of documents at Biden’s White House request.
In explaining why Biden failed to protect Trump’s files, White House attorney Dana Remus wrote that they could “shed light on events in the White House on and around January 6 and bring on the need for the select committee to understand the facts underlying the most serious attack on federal government operations since the Civil War.
Trump called the request document an “illegal and vexatious fishing expedition” that was “detached from any legitimate legislative purpose,” in his lawsuit to prevent the National Archives from handing over the documents.
The lawsuit also challenges the legality of the Presidential Records Act, which allows an incumbent president to waive the executive privilege of a predecessor, calling it unconstitutional in itself. Biden said he would review each request separately to determine whether that privilege should be waived.