Obama-appointed federal judge says January 6 committee may have to LIMIT what records they can get from Trump – but backs Biden’s decision to waive executive privilege
- Judge Tanya Chutkan was appointed to the DC district court by Barack Obama
- She said her ruling would come ‘expeditiously,’ acknowledging that House investigators’ deadline for the first round of documents is November 12
- The case has enormous implications for the bounds of executive privilege
- The National Archives has already agreed to release more than 700 pages of documents relating to January 6 to the Capitol riot committee
- Trump argues that he has sole control over who can access his WH records
- Documents include call logs, files belonging to aides, speech drafts, memos
Judge Tanya Chutkan was assigned Trump’s case at random last month (pictured in 2016 at Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s memorial)
An Obama-appointed judge presiding over Donald Trump‘s quest to block the release of more than 700 pages of White House documents to the Democrat-led House committee investigating the Capitol riot is weighing a ruling that could potentially be a win for the firmer president.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan appeared on Thursday to back the Biden administration’s decision to waive executive privilege over the documents, but conceded that ‘there has to be some limit’ on what House lawmakers can ask for, according to reports after the hearing.
Acknowledging that the deadline for the first round of documents is coming up on November 12, Chutkan vowed to make a decision ‘expeditiously.’
At one point during the proceedings, she laughed off the former president’s lawyers when they were presenting their case today.
Chutkan asked Trump’s attorneys for evidence to back their claim that two other probes already cleared Trump of wrongdoing.
She called it a ‘rather startling’ conclusion and asked, ‘What’s your basis for that assertion?’ in reference to a legal brief they filed earlier this week.
‘Just a published article from Reuters with respect to the – quoting the FBI…’ the attorney explained, according to audio of the hearing obtained by RawStory.
Chutkan replied, ‘You cite an article – and by the way, the article says the FBI has found scant evidence, but I mean -‘
She paused for a stunned chuckle before continuing on.
‘I mean, that’s your only support for that statement?’ she asks.
The article in question appears to be a Reuters story from late August, titled ‘Exclusive: FBI finds scant evidence U.S. Capitol attack was coordinated – sources.’
Chutkan was handed the case at random last month. She’s known for handing down harsh words and harsher sentences to people who participated in the Capitol riot, once denouncing them from the bench as a ‘violent mob.’
The case will test the bounds of executive privilege, which the ex-president successfully invoked as a defense in past probes while he was commander-in-chief.
Trump has denounced the House’s investigation as a ‘witch hunt’ and claims he should have control over the release of his White House files
Chutkan is hearing Trump’s lawyers explain why they believe the National Archives should be blocked from releasing his executive records.
She could issue the highly-anticipated ruling as early as this afternoon.
Trump has denounced the House select committee’s investigation of January 6 as a ‘witch hunt’ and argued that he should have sole control over access to the records of his White House.
The files, which could include phone records, visitor logs, speech drafts and memos of Trump and his closest aides, have the potential to be groundbreaking for the bipartisan House probe.
The National Archives has already agreed to hand over the documents, and Joe Biden’s White House said it would not stand in the way.
Lawmakers led by Democratic Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Republican Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming have sought to paint the documents as critical to their probe.
‘In 2021, for the first time since the Civil War, the Nation did not experience a peaceful transfer of power,’ committee lawyers said over the weekend, according to CNN.
Lawmakers led by Democratic Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson and Republican Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney have argued the documents are critical to their probe
They argued, ‘A peaceful transfer of power from one President to another is crucial to the continuation of our democratic government. It is difficult to imagine a more critical subject for Congressional investigation, and Mr. Trump’s arguments cannot overcome that pressing legislative need.’
Trump’s lawyers told Chutkan’s court this week, ‘Permitting the expansive request here would harm future presidents and their close aides by allowing invasive congressional fishing expeditions that will certainly chill candid advice and harm the institution of the presidency.’
Among the records they’re trying to block are files from ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who was subpoenaed by House investigators in September.
They also include call logs between Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who was forced into hiding at the Capitol while the ex-president’s supporters broke in.
Ex-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s binders containing 2020 election talking points and documents belonging to adviser Stephen Miller are also on the list.
Chutkan, whose decision today could either make or break the House investigation, called the Capitol rioters as a ‘violent mob seeking to overthrow the lawfully elected government’ during the sentencing hearing of one participant, Matthew Mazzocco, who she sentenced to 45 days in jail despite prosecutors not recommending any incarceration.
Chutkan has been known to hand down harsh sentences to Capitol rioters appearing in her courtroom
The 59-year-old judge was appointed by Barack Obama in 2013.
Public records show she donated around $2,200 to Obama in 2008, when she was a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner.
Already Chutkan is known for handing down sentences of at least 14 days for Capitol riot defendants who’ve entered her courtroom.
During the sentencing hearing of Capitol rioter Mazzocco, she condemned the Trump supporters as a ‘very real danger’ to democracy, CNN reported.
Prosecutors recommended home confinement for Mazzocco’s misdemeanor charge but Chutkan reportedly disagreed.
‘There have to be consequences for participating in an attempted violent overthrow of the government, beyond sitting at home,’ she said in court.
Chutkan said the rioters had ‘soiled and defaced the halls of the Capitol.’
She went after Trump directly when she said Mazzocco didn’t go to the Capitol on January 6 ‘out of any love for our country.’
‘He went for one man,’ the judge said
She also slammed comparisons to earlier Black Lives Matter protests in DC.
‘To compare the actions of people around the country protesting, mostly peacefully, for civil rights, to a violent mob seeking to overthrow the lawfully elected government is a false equivalency and downplays the very real danger that the crowd on January 6 posed to our democracy.’ Chutkan said.
An earlier case of Chutkan’s made headlines in 2019 when she sentenced Russian spy Maria Butina to 18 months in prison for conspiring to infiltrate the National Rifle Association. That sentence was in line with the government’s recommendation.