A federal magistrate has ordered one of President Donald Trump’s key campaign advisers on immigration to turn over a document he used to brief the president-elect during the transition.
Magistrate Judge James O’Hara issued an order Wednesday requiring Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to give the court a copy of the memo he took into a meeting with Trump at the president’s Bedminster, N.J., golf club last November.
The meeting was private, but a portion of the front page of the document—titled "Department of Homeland Security: Kobach Strategic Plan for First 365 Days"—was captured by press photographers as Trump and Kobach posed for pictures.
Images of the document showed that it included proposals for registration of citizens of high-risk countries, extreme vetting of foreign visitors, a ban on Syrian refugees, deporting aliens charged with crimes (apparently without regard to whether they’ve been convicted) and building a border wall with Mexico.
At the time of the meeting, Kobach—a well-known immigration hawk—was being widely discussed for nomination or appointment to a top Trump administration post. No such assignment has materialized.
O’Hara has not ruled that Kobach must turn the document over to those who requested it: the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Kansas’ proof of citizenship requirements for those registering to vote. For now, the magistrate is requiring that the memo be produced to the court for in camera review.
O’Hara noted that Kobach has claimed that "the photographed document is protected by the executive privilege." The magistrate termed the question of whether it is should be subject to discovery in the lawsuit "a very close call" and he said he’d address the privilege claim after looking at the memo to see if it has potential relevance to the suit.
Kobach could object to the magistrate’s ruling and appeal to the district court judge overseeing the suit.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the decision. Spokespeople for the White House and for Kobach did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Spokespeople for the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of the League of Women Voters and several Kansas residents, also had no immediate response to queries about the ruling.