Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan yesterday ruled against Trump’s attempt to conceal all presidential papers relating to the planning and implementation of the January 6 Stop the Steal rally and subsequent MAGA riot at the Capitol. All quotes are from the Newsweek edited version of Judge Chutkan’s decision.
Plaintiff does not acknowledge the deference owed to the incumbent President’s judgment. His position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power “exists in perpetuity.”
But Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President. He retains the right to assert that his records are privileged, but the incumbent President “is not constitutionally obliged to honor” that assertion.
That is because Plaintiff is no longer situated to protect executive branch interests with “the information and attendant duty of executing the laws in the light of current facts and circumstances.”
And he no longer remains subject to political checks against potential abuse of that power. Moreover, contrary to Plaintiff’s assertion that President Biden’s decision not to invoke executive privilege is “unprecedented,” history is replete with examples of past Presidents declining to assert the privilege.
Trump’s lawyers. doing their best with an extremely weak legal hand, argued there is no legitimate legislative purpose to justify release of Trump’s plans to overturn the election. In attacking Congress’s legitimate legislative purpose in obtaining these documents, they were skating on very thin ice. Judge Chutkan clarifies that Congress does not need to specifically announce its intended legislative purpose, particularly if the Executive Branch agrees that Congress has a legitimate purpose. Then she helps Trump out in understanding what those purposes likely include:
The court has no difficulty discerning multiple subjects on which legislation “could be had” from the Select Committee’s requests. Some examples include enacting or amending criminal laws to deter and punish violent conduct targeted at the institutions of democracy, enacting measures for future executive enforcement of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment against any Member of Congress or Officer of the United States who engaged in “insurrection or rebellion,” or gave “aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 3, imposing structural reforms on executive branch agencies to prevent their abuse for antidemocratic ends, amending the Electoral Count Act, and reallocating resources and modifying processes for intelligence sharing by federal agencies charged with detecting, and interdicting, foreign and domestic threats to the security and integrity of our electoral processes.
Several times in her decision Judge Chutkan states the obvious, making a public record:
The Select Committee appears to be operating under the theory that January 6 did not take place in a vacuum, and instead was the result of a months-long groundswell.
Defendants argue that to identify effective reforms, Congress must first understand the circumstances leading up to January 6 and how the actions of Plaintiff, his advisors, and other government officials contributed or responded to that groundswell.
The court notes that the Select Committee reasonably could find it necessary to investigate the extent to which the January 6 attack on the Capitol may have been an outgrowth of a sustained effort to overturn the 2020 election results, involving individuals both in and outside government.
But the “very nature of the investigative function—like any research—is that it takes the searchers up some ‘blind alleys’ and into nonproductive enterprises. To be a valid legislative inquiry there need be no predictable end result.” Eastland, 421 U.S. at 509.
See, for example John Durham’s so far two and a half year investigation of alleged left wing traitors behind the Mueller investigation. Compare: five day, extremely limited FBI “investigation” into allegations (witness tips forwarded directly to Kavanaugh’s sponsor, fellow Federalist Society all-star Don McGahn) against Justice Boof Kavanaugh.
The Committee could reasonably expect the requested records to shed light on any White House planning and strategies concerning public messaging about the election, any efforts to halt or delay the electoral count, and preparations for and responses to the January 6 rally and attack.
Such information would be plainly material to the Select Committee’s mandate to discover and report on “the facts, circumstances, and causes relating to the January 6 [attack],” H.R. 503, § 3(1), and to pass remedial legislation in any number of previously identified areas within their legislative purview.
Court: Trump’s claims fall, release the records, Trump loses this one. Trump: Judge Chutkan is fake, smelly and a liar who does disgusting things when she goes to the bathroom! I have already appealed this bullshit decision, will win AGAIN 6-3 in my Supreme Court!