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Trump’s White House records on Jan. 6 attack can be accessed by Congress, judge rules

Click to play video: 'White House calls Trump lawsuit an effort to shield his attempts to subvert constitution' White House calls Trump lawsuit an effort to shield his attempts to subvert constitution
WATCH: White House calls Trump lawsuit an effort to shield his attempts to subvert constitution – Oct 19, 2021

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that a U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol can access former President Donald Trump’s White House records, in a win for congressional investigators.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in the District of Columbia rejected an argument by Trump’s lawyers that telephone records, visitor logs and other White House documents should be hidden from the committee.

Trump had argued that the materials requested by the House committee were covered by a legal doctrine known as executive privilege that protects the confidentiality of some White House communications.

Read more: Trump sues to block records related to U.S. Capitol insurrection from Congress

He requested an injunction blocking the National Archives, a federal agency that holds his White House records, from complying with the committee’s document requests.

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The committee has said it needs the requested materials to understand the role Trump may have played in fomenting the riot.

Biden largely waived executive privilege on documents held by the White 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 has said.

Trump is expected to appeal the ruling and it is likely to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump gave an incendiary speech before the assault on the Capitol, repeating his false claims that the November 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud and urging his supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to “stop the steal.”

Click to play video: 'White House blocks Trump attempt to withhold documents related to Jan. 6 attack' White House blocks Trump attempt to withhold documents related to Jan. 6 attack
White House blocks Trump attempt to withhold documents related to Jan. 6 attack – Oct 8, 2021

His supporters stormed the Capitol in a failed bid to prevent Congress from formally certifying now-President Joe Biden’s election victory. Biden, a Democrat, took office on Jan. 20.

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About 700 people face criminal charges stemming from the riot.

In suing to block the National Archives from turning over documents, Trump called the House panel’s request a “vexatious, illegal fishing expedition” that was “untethered from any legitimate legislative purpose.” Allowing the House to get access to his records would damage executive privilege for future presidents, Trump’s lawyers argued.

But Chutkan noted examples of past presidents declining to assert executive privilege and rejected what she said was Trump’s claim that executive privilege “exists in perpetuity.”

She added 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.”

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Kanishka Singh; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Peter Cooney)

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