US judge rules Trump Capitol attack records can be released to Congress

By: AFP      Published: 09:12 AM, 10 Nov, 2021
US judge rules Trump Capitol attack records can be released to Congress
File photo.

A US judge Tuesday ordered White House records that could implicate former President Donald Trump in the January 6 attack on the Capitol be released to a Congressional committee, despite the ex-leader's attempts to keep them secret.

The documents have been sought by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 violence, in which hundreds of Trump supporters forced the shutdown of Congress and delayed a joint session to confirm that Joe Biden had won the November 2020 election and would become president.

Trump sued seeking a stay to halt the release of the documents, arguing that as former president he retained executive privilege to keep the communications and visitor logs related to that day under seal.

In a 39-page opinion made available by several US media outlets, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan said Trump's request was denied, stating it was in the public's interest to release the documents and that he was "unlikely to succeed on the merits of his claims or suffer irreparable harm."

"The court holds that the public interest lies in permitting -- not enjoining -- the combined will of the legislative and executive branches to study the events that led to and occurred on January 6, and to consider legislation to prevent such events from ever occurring again," the opinion said.

The documents that Trump hoped to block include records from his top aides and memos to his press secretary, according to a court document published in October.

Trump's lawyers have already said they will appeal the ruling, according to The Washington Post.

Panel demands testimony from Trump inner circle

The panel investigating the January 6 assault on the US Capitol issued a new round of subpoenas Tuesday to some of then-president Donald Trump's most senior lieutenants, including spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany and trusted confidante Stephen Miller.

McEnany, White House press secretary for the administration's last nine months, and Miller, a senior advisor, both made false claims promoting Trump's baseless accusations that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

"As a White House press secretary you made multiple public statements from the White House and elsewhere about purported fraud in the November 2020 election, which individuals who attacked the US Capitol echoed on January 6," the committee said in its subpoena to McEnany.

Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol 10 months ago in an effort to overturn President Joe Biden's election victory in a riot that is blamed in part for the deaths of five people and injuries to dozens of police officers.

Trump had urged them to march on the Capitol and "fight like hell" in a fiery speech that was the culmination of months of baseless claims about a contest he had lost fairly to Biden.

"You and your team prepared former President Trump's remarks for the rally on the Ellipse on January 6, you were at the White House that day, and you were with Trump when he spoke at the 'Stop the Steal' rally," the committee told Miller.

Making up the list are eight former Trump staffers of varying degrees of seniority, from personal assistant Nicholas Luna to White House deputy chief of staff Christopher Liddell and Keith Kellogg, who was then vice president Pence's national security advisor.

"We believe the witnesses subpoenaed today have relevant information and we expect them to comply fully with the Select committee’s investigation as we work to get answers for the American people," said panel chairman Bennie Thompson.

On Monday the committee demanded testimony from six former Trump advisors and campaign officials as it expanded its probe into Trump's actions in the buildup to and during the violence that engulfed the Capitol.

Liz Cheney, the committee's top Republican, said last week it had interviewed more than 150 people. 

A comfortable majority of 57 senators -- including seven from his own party -- voted to convict Trump after he was impeached by the House for inciting the January 6 riot, although this fell short of the two-thirds majority required under Senate rules to unseat a president.