Donald Trump and his legal team haven't just picked a curious fight over executive privilege, they're also committing to that fight with extraordinary vigor.
On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that the former president does not have the legal authority to block the release of materials to the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. "[Trump's] position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power 'exists in perpetuity,'" Judge Tanya S. Chutkan wrote. "But Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President."
That decision cleared the way for the National Archives, which houses presidential records, to release the relevant materials to the bipartisan committee this week. Yesterday, the Republican and his lawyers asked the same judge for an emergency injunction, blocking enforcement of her ruling while the matter is appealed. As NBC News reported overnight, she declined.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan denied a request for an emergency injunction filed by Trump's lawyers a day after she ruled against Trump, who was trying to stop a House committee from receiving scores of White House documents from the Trump administration pertaining to the Capitol riot. Trump has argued that the files are protected by executive privilege.
"This court will not effectively ignore its own reasoning in denying injunctive relief in the first place to grant injunctive relief now," Chutkan wrote.
For those who may need a refresher about how we arrived at this point, it was several weeks ago when the bipartisan House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack requested extensive materials from the White House, prompting Trump to demand absolute secrecy.
As NBC News recently noted, as a matter of tradition, sitting presidents have shielded White House materials at the request of their predecessors. But not this time: President Joe Biden and his team concluded that there are "unique and extraordinary circumstances" surrounding the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol.
Trump and his team sued both the committee and the National Archives, which houses presidential records. This week, at least at the district court level, that lawsuit failed, clearing the way for lawmakers to access everything from call logs to handwritten notes, internal emails to draft presidential memoranda.
So what happens now? In theory, the former president could simply accept the ruling and allow the bipartisan investigation to continue. In practice, Trump and his team have already indicated they'll take the matter to an appellate court and make another plea for an emergency injunction, which would block the National Archives from cooperating with Congress, while the merits of the case are litigated further.
If the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals declines, it's a safe bet the Republican will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.
In all likelihood, the former president will eventually lose this fight. As Tuesday's ruling explained, "At bottom, this is a dispute between a former and incumbent President. And the Supreme Court has already made clear that in such circumstances, the incumbent's view is accorded greater weight."
Trump and his attorneys very likely know this. They're nevertheless hoping to drag the process out as long as possible — trying to run out the clock is a go-to move for the former president — in the hopes of catching a break. The more the court fight is extended, the more likely it becomes that Trump can keep the documents secret until his party has a chance to reclaim the U.S. House majority and shut down the investigation.
But while the process unfolds, the political realizations are plain: Trump appears about as desperate to hide these Jan. 6 materials as he is to hide his tax returns.