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Trump appeals ruling that allows Jan. 6 panel to access Trump White House records

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

And now to the work that the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has been doing. Lawmakers have been extremely busy. They've sent out dozens of subpoenas to Trump allies in the last week for documents and testimony. And more subpoenas could come. A judge ruled late last night that some Trump White House documents can be turned over from the National Archives to the committee. The panel could get those papers as early as Friday, but the former president has appealed that ruling. So what does all the flurry of activity mean for the committee?

Well, joining us now to shed some light on that is NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: All right. So let's first talk about who's getting these subpoenas. I mean, who does the committee want to hear from, and what do you think it tells us about the direction the investigation is going in?

GRISALES: It's pretty clear, as this probe is moving, it's moving into more familiar names from the previous administration. I talked to one of the panel's members today, Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin, who described the probe now as focusing on three rings - the outside ring being the rioters, the middle ring being the organized groups like the far-right extremist group Proud Boys and the third, those Trump allies fueling a call for a coup.

JAMIE RASKIN: We want to know exactly how everything was organized and coordinated. Who was calling the shots at different points? And all of it is with an eye towards figuring out what we need to do as a country to make sure we never face a nightmare like this again.

GRISALES: So far, the subpoena are a who's who of ex-Trump officials. This includes former strategist Steve Bannon to, more recently, attorney John Eastman, who was a focus for the panel on these disinformation efforts. They're also looking at former adviser Stephen Miller and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who were with Trump on January 6. And the panel wants to know, aside from the roles they played, who fueled this disinformation and what ultimate effort to attempt to overturn the election's results.

CHANG: And I understand a key focus is a memo that John Eastman, this lawyer you just mentioned, wrote. Right?

GRISALES: Yes. Eastman wrote this memo urging Vice President Mike Pence at that time to reject the results of the democratic election. Some argue this laid out a game plan, if you will, to pursue this attempted coup. He was also part of a briefing with about 300 state lawmakers regarding these false claims of election fraud, during which he told the group that there was discussion about not letting the wrong guy who, quote, "did not get elected" into the White House, so referring to Biden there.

CHANG: Right. So how much are people cooperating with the committee at this point?

GRISALES: They're still in discussion with most of those who have received subpoenas. But that said, they've conducted more than 150 interviews with witnesses who are cooperating. Now, the panel is not identifying those who have met with the panel, but they say this has produced a significant amount of information. And this is even before a federal court ruling last night that said hundreds of pages of records from the previous administration should be handed over to this committee. And that includes White House visitor logs. Raskin himself called that a, quote, "devastating" ruling that could set Trump up for failure as he tries to appeal this.

CHANG: OK. And what's the status of that case today?

GRISALES: So both sides are trading a flurry of filings today following that ruling, with Trump's team towards an eye - looking towards his appeal in hopes that they can stop this transfer of these records. I talked to a former House impeachment lawyer about this, Norm Eisen, who has fought Trump in court before. He says he may not have the same luck this time.

NORM EISEN: He brought cases to frustrate congressional discovery. And he lost those cases. But it took so long that the information no longer had any impact by the time it came out.

GRISALES: This time Eisen and Raskin argue Trump's legal team will be operating from this ruling that was issued from U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan last night as the case moves towards the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. And they're betting they're going to win this case. And if so, that could open the door for this extensive wave of documents to be released to the panel, maybe even in the coming weeks. But we should note this is a complicated, unprecedented legal case, and it's hard to predict ultimately if the committee and other defendants will prevail.

CHANG: That is NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Thank you, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thanks much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.