Judge denies media requests to release Trump investigative documents Jan. 6

A federal judge in Washington on Thursday denied a request by news media to release court records related to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to prevent former aides from testifying before a grand jury about efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The New York Times and Politico had asked the judge in October to release documents related to the extent of Trump’s efforts to prevent former aides from testifying about their communications with him. The businesses had argued that public interest in the grand jury investigation outweighed the need for secrecy, but the Justice Department resisted their attempts to close the case to court amid its ongoing investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell wrote in her 32-page opinion that the records requested by the media were central to the grand jury’s ongoing investigation and that legal precedent barred their release “at least for now and perhaps forever.”

“The pending case highlights the tension that exists between the important policies underlying grand jury secrecy … and ‘the ever-strong presumption in favor of public access to legal proceedings,'” Howell wrote.

Special Counsel Jack Smith was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November to oversee the criminal investigation into efforts to interfere with the results of the 2020 election, and claims of executive privilege have become a key issue in the investigation. The investigation is multi-pronged and examines the creation of alternative lists of pro-Trump voters that could be used to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential victory, as well as the events surrounding the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Former Vice President Mike Pence has recently been subpoenaed by the special counsel and Trump’s lawyers are expected to struggle Pence’s subpoena on grounds of executive privilege.

Several ex-Trump White House aides have also been subpoenaed in the investigation, including Pat Cipollonee, the former White House counsel, and Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, who appeared before the federal grand jury in July – the highest-ranking former official known to have testified in the case. Short and Greg Jacob, Pence’s adviser, were with the then-vice president at the US Capitol the day it was attacked by Trump supporters, and later testified before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, as did Cipollone.

The news organizations had specifically sought materials related to two grand jury subpoenas for testimony and Howell’s decision-making on the scope of Trump’s executive privilege, among other documents.

The Justice Department has opposed the release of sealed documents, arguing that the government had not confirmed the existence of the investigation when the case began and that parties and witnesses had not publicly acknowledged the grand jury case.

Both news outlets indicated they may appeal Howell’s ruling.

Danielle Rhoades Ha, a spokeswoman for the Times, said in a statement that the business is “disappointed” in the ruling.

“We will make a decision on whether to pursue further legal action once we have had time to consider the statement setting out the reasons for the decision,” she said.

In a statement, Politico spokesman Brad Dayspring said the news outlet is “committed to the principle that a government of, for and by the people is transparent with the people on such an important issue. We are reviewing the decision and evaluating next steps.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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