A US judge has ruled a congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot can access some of ex-President Donald Trump’s White House records.
Trump wanted to invoke executive privilege, under which presidential documents can be kept secret.
The inquiry by the congressional committee is trying to find out if Trump had prior knowledge of the capitol riot.
Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building on 6 January as Congress was certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory after Trump refused to acknowledge losing the election last year, claiming – without evidence – that it had been rigged.
The inquiry is being conducted by a committee set up by the House of Representatives which is dominated by President Biden’s Democrats.
The panel wants to get hold of phone records, visitor logs and other White House documents that could shed some light on the events leading up to the attack on Congress.
The committee has issued summons to several Trump aides to testify before the lawmakers and Trump argues his White House communications were protected and as such should not be released.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that the National Archives, the federal agency that holds the records, should comply with the panel’s request.
In a 39-page ruling on Tuesday, November 9, Judge Chutkan told Congress that they had the right to see the documents, particularly as the current president, Joe Biden had agreed.
Trump “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,'” the judge wrote. “But presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.”
As the former president, Trump enjoyed the right to executive privilege, she added, but the incumbent president “is best situated to protect executive branch interests”
However, it is unlikely the records will be accessible in the near future as the legal battle is likely to wind up at the Supreme Court.
Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for Mr Trump, said the case was likely to be appealed.
He said Trump was committed to defending the right of US presidents to assert executive privilege and “will be seeing this process through”.
Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who is chairman of the committee, called the lawsuit “little more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our investigation.”
Sixteen of Mr Trump’s closest aides, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, Stephen Miller, who was Mr Trump’s senior adviser, Bill Stepien, campaign manager, Mark Meadows, former White House chief of staff, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser have been subpoenaed in the past two days.
Bennie Thompson said in a statement he wanted to know every detail about what happened on 6 January, and in the days leading up to it.
The committee expects the witnesses to “comply fully”, he added.
Following the Capitol riot, Mr Trump was impeached by the lower house of Congress, but cleared by the then Republican-controlled upper house, the Senate, of inciting an insurrection.