Judge to Hear Trump Bid to Stonewall Capitol Riot Investigation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, on Jan. 6, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

A judge is set to hear arguments by Donald Trump’s lawyers on Thursday that hundreds of pages of his White House records should be withheld from a House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by a mob of his supporters.

District Judge Tanya Chutkan is due to consider the Republican former president’s arguments that phone call records, visitor logs and other materials requested by the Democratic-led committee should be kept confidential. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET.

Trump on Oct. 18 sued the nine-member select committee, arguing that the requested materials are covered by a legal doctrine known as executive privilege that protects the confidentiality of some White House communications. Trump left office on Jan. 20.

“The Committee’s requests are unprecedented in their breadth and scope and are untethered from any legitimate legislative purpose,” Trump’s lawyer Jesse Binnall wrote in the lawsuit.

The committee requested the materials from the U.S. National Archives, which holds the records.

Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, the committee’s chairman, and Republican Representative Liz Cheney, its vice chair, said in a statement after the filing of the lawsuit that Trump is seeking to “delay and obstruct” the investigation.

“It’s hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election,” Cheney and Thompson said.

Trump gave an incendiary speech before the deadly riot repeating his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud and urging his supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight” to “top the steal.” His supporters stormed the Capitol in a failed bid to prevent Congress from formally certifying Democratic President Joe Biden‘s election victory.

The committee has said it needs the requested materials to understand the role that Trump may have played in fomenting the riot. It has said the requests are within its powers and driven by the clear legislative purpose of understanding the facts and causes surrounding the riot and developing legislation to guard against a similar assault in the future.

About 700 people face criminal charges stemming from the riot.

The House on Oct. 21 voted to hold Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the investigation. Bannon has refused to comply with committee subpoenas seeking documents and his testimony, citing Trump’s insistence – disputed by some legal scholars – that his communications are protected by executive privilege.

The Justice Department must now decide whether to bring criminal charges against Bannon.