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

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Trump supporters are seen outside the US Capitol during the violent attack on January 6, 2021 (AFP/ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)
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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 a 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 hand over the documents, the release of which Biden has already approved.

Trump's "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,'" Chutkan wrote. "But Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President."

"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.

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.

The more than 770 pages include records of his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, his former senior advisor Stephen Miller and his former deputy counsel Patrick Philbin.

Trump had also hoped to block the release of the White House Daily Diary -- a record of his activities, trips, briefings and phone calls.

Another trove of documents Trump does not want Congress to see includes memos to his former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, a handwritten note on the January 6 events and a draft text of his speech at the "Save America" rally, which led up to the attack.

Multiple US media outlets reported that Trump immediately filed paperwork for an appeal.

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich wrote on Twitter that "Pres. Trump remains committed to defending the Constitution & the Office of the Presidency, & will be seeing this process through," while asserting that the matter of executive privilege "was destined to be decided by the Appellate Courts."

The House committee lawmakers, meanwhile, on Monday issued subpoenas to top Trump aides who allegedly plotted to overturn his defeat in a "war room" at a luxury Washington hotel.

That was followed by a new round of subpoenas Tuesday to some of his most senior lieutenants, including McEnany and Miller.

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