Former US president argues White House files related to the Capitol insurrection are protected by ‘executive privilege’.
Published On 23 Dec 2021
Former US President Donald Trump has turned to the United States Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort to keep documents away from a congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
Trump’s lawyers argued in their petition submitted to the Supreme Court on Thursday that the US Constitution and another piece of legislation, the Presidential Records Act, give former presidents “a clear right to protect their confidential records from premature dissemination”.
“This case presents a clear threat to that right,” they wrote.
The request came two weeks after the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Trump’s challenge to Democratic President Joe Biden’s decision to allow the documents to be handed over. That decision will remain on hold until the Supreme Court acts.
Trump sued the US House of Representatives committee probing the January 6 insurrection, as well as the US National Archives, to stop the White House from allowing the release of documents related to the riot.
He is claiming that as a former president he has the right to assert “executive privilege” over the records, arguing that releasing them would damage the presidency in the future.
Biden had previously determined that the records, which belong to the executive branch, should not be subject to executive privilege, which protects the confidentially of some internal White House communications.
Turning them over to Congress is in the best interest of the nation, the Biden administration said in October.
After weeks of repeating false claims that the 2020 US presidential election was marred by widespread fraud, Trump on January 6 delivered a fiery speech in Washington, DC, in which he urged his supporters to “stop the steal”.
A mob of his supporters then stormed the Capitol building as Congress was meeting to certify Biden’s election victory. The Republican leader was later impeached for “incitement of insurrection” in relation to the deadly riot.
But Trump’s lawyers said in their court filing that the House Select Committee’s records request is “exceedingly broad” and an “unprecedented encroachment on executive privilege”.
The appeals court ruling earlier this month, which prompted Trump’s latest appeal to the Supreme Court, was another blow to the Republican former president and his allies. They have waged a continuing legal battle with the committee about access to documents and witnesses.
The documents include presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts, handwritten notes “concerning the events of January 6” from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows, and “a draft Executive Order on the topic of election integrity”, the National Archives has said.
The congressional panel probing the January 6 riot has said it needs the records to understand any role Trump may have played in fomenting the violence.
Trump has argued that he can invoke executive privilege based on the fact that he was president at the time even though he is no longer in office.
The Supreme Court has a 6-3 conservative majority that includes three justices appointed by Trump, but it has not always been receptive to his requests.
In February, the court rejected his request to block the disclosure of his tax records as part of a criminal investigation in New York. In 2020, the court also turned away attempts by Trump and his allies to overturn that year’s presidential election, which he lost to Biden.