An Obama-appointed judge strongly suggested during a hearing Thursday that she intends to side against former President Donald Trump in his attempt to block congressional Democrats from obtaining records about his activities preceding the Jan. 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Last month the former president filed suit in an attempt to block the National Archives from handing his records over to the Democrat-led Jan. 6th Committee.
Though D.C. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who was appointed to her post in 2014, didn’t issue a final ruling Thursday, she made it fairly clear with her questions that she doesn’t believe Trump possesses the authority to block the records.
“Isn’t the person who is best able and in a position to determine the executive privilege, the executive?” she asked at one point in the hearing, according to The Washington Post.
By “the executive,” she meant current President Joe Biden.
“It’s not a separation of powers fight [with Congress]. It may be a dispute between a former president and a current president … but … there’s only one executive,” she added.
She also questioned the notion put forth by the former president’s attorneys that Congress has no business reviewing Trump’s pre-Jan. 6th records.
“The January 6th riots happened in the Capitol — that is literally Congress’s house. Are you really saying that the president’s notes, talking points, and telephone conversations on January 6th, for example, have no relation to matters on which Congress is considering legislation?” she said.
“How are visitor logs which reveal who came to the White House on specific dates, how are those privileged?” she added.
The president’s attorneys reportedly tried arguing that presidential records must remain confidential because of the repercussions that opening them up to review could engender.
“Presidents require ‘full and frank’ advice to carry out their duties, and the confidentiality of such deliberations must survive more than a few months or years after they leave office to protect the institution of the presidency, his lawyers asserted,” according to the Post.
“Not only is this an important argument and a monumental argument, but one that is going to have consequences down the line for generations potentially,” one attorney, Justin Clark, said.
House General Counsel Douglas N. Letter, meanwhile, tried arguing that a review of the records is necessary to determine “whether the roots of the Capitol violence reached back to as early as April 2020, when he said Trump was tweeting about election fraud,” as reported by the Post.
To be clear, all currently known evidence suggests that the riot was a spontaneous event that erupted after a group of malefactors broke off from the peaceful Jan. 6th “Stop the Steal” rally and penetrated the Capitol by their own volition. Meaning Trump had nothing to do with the riot.
Chutkan nevertheless seemed to buy Letter’s argument hook, line, and sinker.
“Remember, one of the things we’re looking at is, what was the former president thinking?” he reportedly pointed out to her at one point during the hearing.
“Are you telling me we are again talking about, ‘What did the president know, and when did he know it?'” the judge replied, making a reference to a famous quote from the Watergate scandal.
“I think we are, your honor, that is absolutely central to this inquiry,” Letter replied.
It appears both view Trump as being equivalent to Nixon …
“Clearly we have a major danger when a significant percentage of the population thinks an election is stolen, even though any number of judges have spoken that there’s no evidence of that,” the House counsel continued.
“We want to know how much of this was inside the White House. How much with Congress. How much with outside groups, the Proud Boys, et cetera . . . How broad is this whole problem that we now face? Where did it come from?” he added.
Despite Chutkan mostly siding with congressional Democrats, she did slam them for their “unbelievably broad” requests.
However, she is expected to rule against Trump anyway. It doesn’t help that the National Archives is, itself, against the lawsuit.
Speaking at the hearing Thursday, Billy Laster, the director of the agency’s White House Liaison Division, defended Democrats’ interest in the documents, according to Newsweek.
“Even assuming the applicability of executive privilege, however, the documents may assist the Select Committee in understanding efforts to communicate with the American public, including those who attacked the Capitol on January 6, on the subjects of alleged voter fraud, election security, and other topics concerning the 2020 election,” he said.
As expected, the left is thrilled over the results of the hearing:
Hearing just concluded. Given Judge Chutkan’s questions, comments and observations, today was a good day for justice, in my opinion. More to follow soon . . .
— Glenn Kirschner (@glennkirschner2) November 4, 2021
Judge Chutkan will as soon as today open the door for the 1/6 committee to get smoking gun docs.
Then it will be up to the appellate courts to move just as fast.
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) November 5, 2021
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