Four weeks after President Joe Biden approved the release of the records, Judge Tanya Chutkan questioned Donald Trump’s claim of presidential executive privilege to keep the conversations and visitor logs from that day shielded by executive privilege.
A federal judge in Washington questioned former President Donald Trump’s suit to prevent the release of White House records that could incriminate him or his aides in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol on Thursday.
Judge Tanya Chutkan expressed doubts about Trump’s claim of presidential executive privilege to keep the conversations and visitor logs linked to that day under seal four weeks after President Joe Biden allowed their release.
The documents have been sought by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 violence, in which hundreds of Trump supporters forced a shutdown of Congress and delayed a joint session to confirm that Biden had won the November election and would be president.
Trump’s lawsuit sought a stay to prevent the release of the documents, claiming that as a former president, he was entitled to special protections for his work and communications.
“The former president has rights with respect to asserting privilege,” said Trump attorney Justin Clark.
Given Biden’s judgment, Chutkan challenged him to identify any precedent for that.
“How should I weigh a previous president’s assertion of privilege when the current president says there is none?” she asked.
“The former president’s rights are less significant because he is a former president,” she said.
“The person best able to determine whether there is an executive privilege would be the executive.”
She also questioned Clark’s assertion that the Select Committee, which has also called Trump advisors to testify, has no legitimate basis to obtain the documents.
“There needs to be at least a legislative purpose behind the request,” Clark said.
But Chutkan asked: “Are you really saying that the President’s notes, talking points, telephone conversations, on January 6, have no relation to the matter on which Congress is considering legislation?”
“The January 6 riot happened in the Capitol. That is literally Congress’ house,” she said.
Chutkan agreed with Clark that the document request from the committee, which includes documents dating back to April 2020, could be too wide.
Douglas Letter, an attorney for the committee, stated that they sought to establish that Trump encouraged the attack by striking fear among his supporters.
“This attack didn’t just come out of nowhere,” Letter told the court.
“Many attempts have been made before the election to try to build major mistrust… so that if President Trump did lose, he would be able to say that it was unfair and generate a lot of anger in ways that led to January 6,” he said.
According to the letter, even if the court believes that some documents should be excluded, the majority of them should be released to the committee.
Chutkan stated that she will rule “expeditiously” in view of Trump’s request for a stay to stop the release.