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Court rules against Trump's attempt to block the Capitol Hill investigation

A federal judge has ruled that the former president cannot invoke executive privilege to prevent the House Committee accessing documents relating to 6 January.

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Court rules that Trump can’t block the investigation of the attack on the Capitol
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI AFP

On Tuesday evening a federal judge ruled against an attempt from former President Donald Trump to block the release of documents requested by a House committee investigating the events surrounding the 6 January attack on Capitol Hill.

On the day that lawmakers were scheduled to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election in Joe Biden’s favour, Trump summoned supporters for a ‘Stop the Steal’ march in Washington.

The committee is now seeking access to secret papers relating to Trump’s actions and conversations in the build up to and during the attack on Congress.

In announcing the ruling, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia wrote that the release of said documents was crucial to preventing a repeat of the events of 6 January.

"Accordingly, 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," Chutkan said.

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Trump has lost this attempt to keep the documents secret and the records are now scheduled to be released to the committee on Friday. However Trump’s attorneys have launched another legal attack against the committee, filing a notice of appeal against Chutkan’s ruling.

The former President has described the committee’s attempts to access the records as a "vexatious, illegal fishing expedition,” adding that their request as "untethered from any legitimate legislative purpose."

In response, the committee has repeatedly stated that the documents are vital to understanding the role that Trump, as president, may have played in fomenting the insurrection.

When asked about the potential contents of the records Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House select committee, told CNN: "I look forward to getting this information. I look forward to our investigators going through it with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that our government was not weaponized against its citizens."

A key part of Chutkan’s ruling is based on Trump’s claim that the executive power afforded to him as president lasts in perpetuity; something that is widely disputed. Given that the incumbent, President Biden, has expressly called for the records to be released, Chutkan said Trump’s team had failed to acknowledge "the deference owed to" Biden’s wishes.

Biden has instructed the National Archives to turn over the first batch of the documents on 12 November, assuming that there is no court order in Trump’s favour which would prevent them doing so.