WASHINGTON - A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol can access some White House records from the day of the insurrection, denying former President Donald Trump’s efforts to keep them out of the committee’s hands.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in the District of Columbia issued her order Tuesday, saying Trump’s request to block the access was denied without prejudice.
Some of the committee’s requests dating back to April 2020 "are alarmingly broad," Chutkan previously said. But she disagreed with claims by Trump’s lawyers that Congress did not have a legislative purpose for getting Trump’s call logs, talking points and other notes from Jan. 6 as his supporters stormed the Capitol in an apparent bid to violently overturn his loss to President Joe Biden.
"The Jan. 6 riot happened in the Capitol," she said. "That is literally Congress’ house."
The records that would be given to the committee include call logs, drafts of remarks and speeches and handwritten notes from Trump’s then-chief of staff, Mark Meadows, according to a court filing by the National Archives. There are also copies of talking points from then-press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and "a draft Executive Order on the topic of election integrity," the National Archives said.
Trump’s previous efforts to withhold his tax returns and other records from Congress was different because it involved his personal finances, Chutkan said Friday. The current fight is over documents that "are thought to further Congress’ oversight into the events of Jan. 6," she said.
The judge did question some of the dozens of demands made by the committee for Trump’s communications and other records. She asked specifically about a request for polling data held by Trump campaign officials dating back to April 2020.
Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the House, argued that polls would provide insight into Trump’s spreading of unfounded conspiracy theories about election fraud.
"He didn’t want to lose the election," Chutkan said at one point. "Do you need polling data to determine that a president who’s up for re-election wants to win and may be worried that he’s not going to win?"
Trump’s legal team called the document requests a "vexatious, illegal fishing expedition" that was "untethered from any legitimate legislative purpose," in his lawsuit to block the National Archives from turning over the documents.
The suit also challenges the legality of the Presidential Records Act, which allows an incumbent president to waive executive privilege of a predecessor, calling it inherently unconstitutional. Biden has said he would go through each request separately to determine whether that privilege should be waived.
House investigators issued subpoenas Tuesday to 10 former officials who worked for Trump at the end of his presidency, an effort to find out more about what the president was doing and saying as his supporters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a bid to overturn his defeat.
The subpoenas, including demands for documents and testimony from former senior adviser Stephen Miller and McEnany, bring the House panel tasked with investigating the insurrection even closer inside Trump’s inner circle — and closer to Trump himself. They come a day after the committee subpoenaed six other associates of the former president who spread mistruths about widespread fraud in the election and strategized about how to thwart Biden’s victory.
It is so far unclear if the Jan. 6 panel will subpoena Trump, though the committee’s leaders have said they haven’t ruled anything out. The panel has now issued more than 30 subpoenas, including for Meadows, longtime ally Steve Bannon and others who were close to the former president.
The House later voted to hold Bannon in contempt after he said he would not comply, and the Justice Department is still deciding whether to prosecute the case. Meadows and others have "engaged" with the committee, according to lawmakers, but may still be held in contempt if they do not fully comply.
The panel has already interviewed more than 150 witnesses, and lawmakers have said they want to not only probe the attack itself but its origins — namely the lies that Trump spread about massive voter fraud even though all 50 states had certified Biden’s win and courts across the country rejected his claims. The violent mob of Trump’s supporters echoed those false claims as they pushed past police, broke through windows and doors and threatened lawmakers who were certifying the election that day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.