Judge Chutkan ruled today that Donald Trump didn’t have the right to go “fishing” through the House Special Committee that studied the January 6th insurrection to look for material that hadn’t been handed over to him.
Various rules of federal criminal procedure come together to require the prosecution to hand over any evidence it intends to use against the defendant and that includes even evidence that hurts the prosecution (“Brady Material“).
Thus, Trump shouldn’t have had to worry about not receiving all the evidence that might have helped him.
But this investigation and prosecution is every bit as political as it is criminal, or at least that’s how Trump wants it framed.
So it makes sense that Trump would want to go “fishing” through materials that the House Investigation found but are completely irrelevant to the criminal case because the evidence isn’t going to be used against him.
And that’s precisely why Judge Chutkan said, “No, you don’t get to go on a fishing expedition” in the Congressional lake.
According to This Hill’s report:
“Trump also sought to compel cooperation from Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), the House Administration Oversight Subcommittee chairman, who has said he did not receive the entirety of the panel’s records. And Trump tried to subpoena the national archivist and attorneys to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.”
Loudermilk might have had to explain what he was doing touring the Capitol the day before, so perhaps that’s a win for him.
Judge Chutkan wrote;
“The broad scope of the records that Defendant seeks, and his vague description of their potential relevance, resemble less ‘a good faith effort to obtain identified evidence’ than they do a general ‘fishing expedition’ that attempts to use the [Rule 17(c) subpoena] as a discovery device.’”
“President Trump is fully entitled to seek the Missing Records by subpoena. It is also equally important to determine if these records have been lost, destroyed, or altered,”
So Trump is free to seek the records — he just has to subpoena Congress. He can’t rely on Jack Smith to find those records for him and hand them over.
Trump also has the duty to show the court that the records are relevant to his case.
Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the House Special Committee Chair, has also said that they’ve archived all the material:
“The Select Committee did not archive temporary committee records that were not elevated by the Committee’s actions, such as use in hearings or official publications, or those that did not further its investigative activities. Accordingly, and contrary to your letter’s implication, the Select Committee was not obligated to archive all video recordings of transcribed interviews or depositions.”
So Chutkan didn’t completely shut the door on Trump.
She is saying that it’s Trump’s responsibility to go get the material himself. And then much more importantly, he has to convince her that the material is relevant and not just political hay.
Smith’s team already must produce all evidence they intend to use to convict Trump, including material that reflects badly on their witnesses. If Trump goes out and finds evidence he believes “wasn’t handed over” in the Committee investigation, he’s going to have to convince her that it matters in determining his guilt or innocence.
That will not be easy.
This column is based on an original report by Rebecca Beitsch of The Hill
I can be reached at email@example.com and on X @JasonMiciak.
Editor’s note: This is an opinion column that solely reflects the opinions of the author