Posts tagged with "Presidents are not kings"

Judge rules that Trump’s January 6 White House records should be handed over to House committee

November 11, 2021

A federal judge ruled late Tuesday night, November 9, that former President Donald Trump’s sensitive White House records should be turned over to congressional investigators looking into the departed executive’s role in fueling the January 6 Capitol insurrection, reports The Daily Beast.

Whether it will actually happen is still a bit of a question: Almost immediately on Tuesday night, Trump’s legal team filed an appeal. However, House lawmakers are closer than ever to acquiring internal communications—including phone records for January 6—from within the White House.

And the National Archives, which is in possession of the records, has said it plans to hand over documents Friday unless a court stops the transfer.

That appears to be unlikely at the moment, the Beast says.

Three weeks ago, Trump sued the chairman of the select committee conducting the investigation, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), in an attempt to assert executive privilege and block the National Archives from releasing records of internal White House communications before and during the assault on the nation’s democracy.

U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Tanya S. Chutkan, however, ruled that she would not step in the way of the Archives turning over those records.

“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,” she wrote.

Chutkan agreed with the committee that this is “a matter of unsurpassed public importance because such information relates to our core democratic institutions and the public’s confidence in them.”

The judge added that Trump’s last ditch effort to keep key details secret would likely fail in a prolonged court battle anyway.

Trump’s political director of communications, Taylor Budowich, issued a statement late Tuesday saying that this battle “was destined to be decided by the Appellate Courts.”

“Pres. Trump remains committed to defending the Constitution & the Office of the Presidency, & will be seeing this process through,” he wrote on Twitter.

His decision to raise the fight to the appellate court could stall the National Archives and Records Administration from releasing it by its deadline this Friday.

Although Trump’s lawyer, Jesse Binnall, argued that the former president could still assert executive privilege with the expectation that current President Joe Biden must abide by it, legal scholars immediately noted that the argument is nonsensical, given the obvious fact that Trump is no longer president, and his successor is under no obligation to abide by his wishes.

Chutkin touched on that in her opinion, ripping into Trump for attempting to assert expanded power. “Plaintiff does not acknowledge the deference owed to the incumbent President’s judgment. His 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.’ But Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” she wrote.

Within hours, Thompson issued a statement thanking the judge for her ruling, accusing Trump’s lawsuit of being “little more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our investigation.”

“The presidential records we requested from the National Archives are critical for understanding the terrible events of January 6th,” he said in the statement. “The Select Committee’s investigation is moving forward swiftly and we look forward to receiving these important records from the National Archives.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

From no-show to must-go: McGahn must testify to Congress, judge rules; DOJ will appeal

November 27, 2019

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn—who often spoke truth to the president, but refused to testify before the U.S. Congress after he was subpoenaed last April to do so—may yet face the music, if an appeal by the Trump administration of the ruling made on November 25 by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia  is not successful.

The ruling that McGahn must appear before Congress comes as a disappointment to the president, who had made it no secret that he wanted to block all White House aides from appearing before the House impeachment investigators.

Indeed, Judge Jackson said that senior presidential aides must comply with congressional subpoenas and characterized the administration’s arguments to the contrary as “fiction,” The New York Times reported.

Her 120-page decision handed another lower-court victory to House Democrats in their fight to overcome Mr. Trump’s stonewalling. However, Attorney General Bill Barr already has requested a continuance so that he can appeal the case—despite the fact that the judge has stated that “absolute immunity from congressional subpoenas has no basis in law.”

She addressed the Department of Justice directly, noting that, ““When DOJ insists that Presidents can lawfully prevent their senior-level aides from responding to compelled congressional process; and that neither the federal courts nor Congress has the power to do anything about it, DOJ promotes a conception of separation-of-powers principles that gets these constitutional commands exactly backwards,” Jackson wrote. “In reality, it is a core tenet of this Nation’s founding that the powers of a monarch must be split between the branches of the government to prevent tyranny.”

According to the Times report, the judge said “the same is true even for those who worked on national security issues.”

“Presidents are not kings,” wrote Judge Jackson, adding that current and former White House officials owe their allegiance to the Constitution. “They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”

The ruling by Judge Jackson, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, could have broader consequences for the investigation into the Ukraine affair, the news outlet noted.

Notably, John Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, has let it be known that he has significant information about the Ukraine affair at the heart of the impeachment inquiry—but is uncertain whether any congressional subpoena for his testimony would be constitutionally valid. He wants a judge to decide.

Judge Jackson’s ruling also came on the same day that another federal judge in Washington held out the possibility that more documents about the Ukraine affair could yet see the light of day, ruling that emails between the White House and the Pentagon about the freezing of military aid to Ukraine should be released under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Research contact: @nytimes