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10 Nov, 2021 13:23

Trump loses bid to keep White House docs secret in Capitol riot probe

Trump loses bid to keep White House docs secret in Capitol riot probe

A US District Judge has rejected former president Donald Trump’s bid to prevent a congressional committee from securing his White House records, as part of an investigation into the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill.

Issuing the ruling on Tuesday night, Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Trump’s attempt to prevent more than 700 pages of records produced during his presidency from being transferred from the National Archives to the January 6 committee. 

“Presidents are not kings, and the plaintiff is not president,” Chutkan declared, adding 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.”

The congressional committee, established in the House of Representatives, has subpoenaed multiple officials from the Trump White House, as well as phone records, visitor logs and documents. It is working to establish the events that led up to the riot and whether the former president had prior knowledge of what would occur, or played any role in the incident.

Trump has attempted to use executive privilege to prevent the release of the documents. However, the judge was clear that it was up to the incumbent president to decide which documents should be turned over or withheld to “protect executive branch interests.” Executive privilege gives the president and officials serving in the White House the power to withhold information and documentation from the judicial and legislative branches of government.

Legal representatives for the former president have told the court he plans to appeal the ruling, with the case potentially being dragged out for the foreseeable future. Taylor Budowich, his spokesperson, stated after the ruling, Trump was fighting for the right of US presidents past and present to invoke executive privilege, and was committed to “seeing this process through.”

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Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who heads up the January 6 committee, has accused Trump of attempting “to delay and obstruct” the investigation.

Trump has been accused by the Democrats of being involved in the riot, having spoken at the rally that took place directly before the insurrection. It’s claimed he used incendiary language in a brief speech, riling up the crowd, who were demonstrating against the outcome of the 2020 election, before around a thousand of them swarmed the Capitol as Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s victory was underway. Hundreds of those involved were swiftly arrested and charged over their participation.

One protester – an unarmed woman named Ashli Babbitt who was attempting to breach a barricaded door – was killed by a Capitol Police officer during the incident. Three others died from natural causes and one from a drugs overdose.

Trump has encouraged non-cooperation with the committee, whose investigation he has dismissed as a partisan effort to keep the events of January 6 in the national conversation. He has repeatedly called on the committee to instead investigate the 2020 presidential election, which he continues to maintain was fraudulent.

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