Judge rejects effort to stop Jan. 6 panel from using bank records
Courts have no authority to tell Congress to destroy documents already in its possession, or what to do with them, the judge ruled
A federal judge in Washington rejected a request Thursday to stop a House committee from using bank records it obtained through a subpoena as part of the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for former President Donald Trump, wanted the court to require the committee and its members to return or destroy some of his financial records from J.P. Morgan Chase.
Budowich’s lawyers argued the committee and bank refused to extend a production deadline and ultimately turned over records at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and the federal holiday meant he was not able to challenge it in court before Congress got them.
But U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg, at the end of a brief telephone hearing, ruled that the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution means he has no authority to tell Congress to destroy documents already in its possession, or what to do with them.
“There is no case I’ve found, I don’t think there can be one, that says that Congress must give back documents that it has received, no matter how Congress has received them,” Boasberg said.
The judge in part pointed to a 1995 ruling when a federal appeals court in Washington declined a similar request when documents were essentially stolen and given to Congress.
Boasberg also ruled that, even if he did have jurisdiction, he would find that the subpoena was not overly broad and the committee has a valid legislative purpose for its investigation, as the federal appeals court in Washington recently ruled in a similar challenge from Trump.
House General Counsel Doug Letter told the judge that it would violate the separation of powers for a judge to be able to tell Congress what it could do with information in its possession.
Letter also responded to an argument from Budowich that the subpoena is invalid because Speaker Nancy Pelosi failed to follow the House’s own rules when appointing members to the committee, which he called “exactly the type of issue that the courts are not to get into.”
“It would be completely improper for this court to say, ‘I think the speaker is wrong, she does not understand House rules and the House resolution, I know better,’” Letter said.
And Letter said that the House had extended the return date on the subpoena once, and chose not to extend it again because of the pace of the investigation. The committee has issued a flurry of subpoenas to the former president’s lawyers and others as the members prepare for a series of public hearings about the attack.
Budowich testified at a four-hour deposition before the committee on Dec. 22, and turned over more than 400 records related to financial account transactions between Dec. 19, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021, in connection with the rally on the National Mall that proceeded the Jan. 6 attack, his lawyer said.
The court set a status conference next week for next steps in Budowich’s lawsuit.
The lawsuit is among other pending court actions related to the House Jan. 6 panel, including a challenge from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who asked the courts to stop the House from enforcing subpoenas for Meadows and Verizon Wireless.
And a federal judge set a July trial date for former White House adviser Stephen Bannon, who was indicted in November on two counts of contempt of Congress for not complying with a subpoena.