“Presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.”

Judge Tanya Chutkan, striking down a legal request from Trump to conceal records from Congress

US President Donald Trump reacts as he takes his seat during an event to commemorate the 75th annive...

TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

Impact
Donald Trump won't get to keep his secrets secret much longer, judge rules

Failed steak salesman Donald Trump is no longer president of the United States — an objectively good development that has led to a number of unambiguously positive results, like the long overdue end to Infrastructure Week, and also the fact that the most powerful man on Earth is no longer a racist lunatic.

Nevertheless, like so many retirees still struggling to acclimate to their forced obsolescence, Trump occasionally needs reminding that he is not, in fact, the commander in chief anymore, no matter how many times he sends out cloying fundraising letters signed “your favorite president.” Just because it’s on your vision board doesn’t make it true, sir!

This week, the highly sought-after job of telling Trump that he ain’t shit fell to federal judge Tanya Chutkan, who issued a stern and wholly satisfying ruling late Tuesday evening that denied Trump’s efforts to block the National Archives from turning over a tranche of papers from his time in office to the House’s bipartisan committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Last month, President Biden pointedly declined to extend any executive privilege to Trump, as part of the former president’s efforts to prevent the archives from releasing his documents to Congress.

“At bottom, this is a dispute between a former and incumbent president,” Chutkan wrote in her ruling. “And the Supreme Court has already made clear that in such circumstances, the incumbent’s view is accorded greater weight.” Trump’s ego-driven insistence that the protections of executive privilege are imbued on a person in perpetuity simply isn’t the case, Chutkan said, no matter how hard he wishes it.

“Presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president,” Chutkan noted, echoing a 2019 ruling by fellow federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ordering former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify before Congress.

“Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that presidents are not kings,” Jackson said at the time, in response to Trump’s claim that McGahn was also subject to the protections of executive privilege.

Not that Trump actually seems like he’s ready to take the hint. The former president’s legal team has already appealed Chutkan’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and — like so many Trump-powered legal cases — the case will almost certainly be sent all the way up to the Supreme Court. Absent any intervening court order, however, the National Archives has until Friday to turn over the requested papers.

According to the Associated Press, the documents Trump is trying to hard to prevent Congress from seeing include handwritten notes, phone logs, talking points, and drafts of executive orders from the president and some of his top advisers, including former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany — both of whom, incidentally, have also been subpoenaed by the committee. Go figure!