A procedural attempt by former President Donald Trump to keep secret documents from his presidency about the January 6 insurrection quickly failed overnight Monday, in a preview of the major loss in court that came later Tuesday.
Trump late on Monday night had asked Judge Tanya Chutkan of the DC District Court to block the records from being handed over to the House select committee investigating January 6 while he continues to fight in court.
But the federal judge ruled that she wouldn’t let the ex-President get ahead of her then-forthcoming decision. She released her full decision on Tuesday evening, allowing the US House, beginning on Friday, to access hundreds of pages of documents from Trump’s presidency leading up to and about the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, and roundly rejecting all of Trump’s legal arguments.
His request and the judge’s response amount to an odd blip in a historic case about the power of a former president.
Effectively, Trump’s request for an emergency injunction was an attempt to get ahead of Chutkan’s ruling before it happened. In denying Trump’s request, Chutkan called Trump’s Monday filing “premature” and said she planned to rule “expeditiously” on his case.
When her full ruling came about 20 hours later on Tuesday night, Trump quickly indicated he would appeal. Chutkan has said the former President can still return to her to ask for a court order blocking the House from the records as long as he is making legal challenges.
Trump’s legal team first asked the judge to halt the National Archives from turning over his records last month. His request on Monday came days after Chutkan showed skepticism that he could win a case in which he still claims control over the records — and the Biden administration opposes him. Trump said he will appeal any loss, according to his filing.
The former President had argued in his Monday filing that as long as he is in court claiming he can assert executive privilege, the records from his presidency should stay secret.
“This case should be decided after thorough but expeditious consideration pursuant to America’s judicial review process, both before this Court and on appeal, not by a race against the clock. Afterall, this is not a game, especially given the weighty questions at issue,” Trump’s lawyers wrote Monday night.
The Archives has already said it will turn over records unless a court order prevents it, beginning with White House call logs, video logs and schedules related to January 6 as well as three pages of handwritten notes from Trump’s then-chief of staff Mark Meadows.
As president, Trump successfully held off several House pursuits of his records and witnesses close to him, often by bringing lawsuits that lived for years in appeals.
The January 6 committee chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, and vice chair Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, last month knocked Trump’s lawsuit as “nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
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