In a Monday ruling, federal Judge Tanya Chutkan has rejected a push from Donald Trump’s team for pretrial subpoenas centered on ostensibly missing records originating with the House committee that investigated the Capitol riot and circumstances leading up to it, a panel that ceased its operations with the close of the last Congress.
The context for this dispute is the criminal case from Special Counsel Jack Smith accusing Trump of several criminal conspiracies related to his targeting of the 2020 presidential election’s results. Trump’s team targeted with their push for subpoenas both the allegedly missing evidentiary materials from that House panel and several categories of prospective evidence tied to the imagined documents, but, in general terms, Chutkan found that the substance just wasn’t there behind the Trump team’s sprawling efforts.
Categories of interest identified by the ex-president’s team included video recordings of witnesses sitting down with the January 6 committee, transcriptions of these discussions, and more. “According to the letters Defendant cites, however, the Select Committee did not actually send any material under most of those subcategories,” Chutkan said in her decision. (The “sending” would have been to other authorities within the federal government.) The judge added: “As the Government notes, the Sauber and Meyer letters describe transmitting only written transcriptions of witness interviews, not any other records.”
And the government has already broadly produced witness transcripts for Trump’s legal team as part of the routine discovery process. Discovery refers to the pretrial period in which evidence is gathered and shared to facilitate preparations for trial. As for the video recordings tied to those transcripts, “Defendant has not established their relevance,” Chutkan said, referring again to Trump.
She cited government arguments that sharing video recordings at this stage would be jumping the rhetorical gun, since witness lists for trial haven’t even been established — though the judge herself neither agreed with nor rejected this specific claim. The underlying idea is that non-verbal elements of prospective witnesses’ interactions with that House committee could be relevant to the substance of something they say. See the full ruling at this link.