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Judge Rules Against Trump In Executive Privilege Case

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The judge appointed by former President Obama who is presiding over a case involving Donald Trump’s claims of executive privilege related to documents sought by the House Select Committee investing the January 6 incident at the Capitol has made her decision.

And the decision was not unexpected given her history in this case and in others where she made her disdain for Trump apparent, The New York Times reported.

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in a 39-page ruling, decided that Congress’ oversight powers superseded any residual executive authority has.

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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,’” she said. “But presidents are not kings, and the plaintiff is not president.”

She said that it is the current president’s job to determine what documents are protected by executive privilege and that Trump “no longer remains subject to political checks against potential abuse of that power.”

Mississippi Democrat Rep. Representative Bennie Thompson, who is chairman of the committee, celebrated the decision and said that the lawsuit was “little more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our investigation.”

“Along with our country’s history, the executive branch has provided Congress with testimony and information when it has been in the public interest,” he said. “This evening’s ruling is consistent with that tradition. And in my view, there couldn’t be a more compelling public interest than getting answers about an attack on our democracy.”

The judge made it known last week during the hearings that she was skeptical of Trump’s claims of executive privilege.

On Thursday that Trump could not claim executive privilege, noting “There is only one executive,” referring to President Joe Biden.

“The person best able to determine whether there’s an executive privilege is the current executive,” the judge said, Politico reported.

She said that Trump, being a civilian, has no control over any branch of government.

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“I don’t see where the separation-of-power argument that you’re making exists,” she said to the 45th President of the United States’ attorney Justin Clark.

But the fact that this judge did not recuse herself from the case is astounding. In October this judge made a reference to Trump as she sentenced one of the Capitol rioters and criticized comparing it to racial protests and riots that have taken place.

“To compare the actions of people around the country protesting, mostly peacefully, for civil rights, to a violent mob seeking to overthrow the lawfully elected government is a false equivalency and downplays the very real danger that the crowd on January 6 posed to our democracy,” she said at the sentencing hearing for Matthew Mazzocco of Texas, sounding more like a CNN contributor than a judge.

She said that the protesters “soiled and defaced the halls of the Capitol and showed their contempt for the rule of law.”

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“The country is watching to see what the consequences are for something that has not ever happened in the country before,” she said.

“Mr. Mazzocco did not go to the United States Capitol out of any love for our country,” she said in reference to Trump. “He went for one man.”

And where prosecutors only asked the judge for three months of home confinement for the defendant, she decided that 45 days in prison was the correct punishment.

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She argued that if the defendant “walks away with probation and a slap on the wrist … that’s not going to deter anyone from trying what he did again.”

No one other than her can know what her motivation for increasing the sentence from what prosecutors wanted could be. But she said that deterring another incident like January 6 was on her mind.

“Because the country is watching,” she said, “to see what the consequences are for something that has not ever happened in this country before, for actions and crimes that undermine the rule of law and our democracy.”

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