Federal appeals court strikes down Trump’s request to shield docs from Jan. 6 committee

A U.S. court of appeals has denied former President Donald Trump’s bid to bar the National Archives from handing over records from his administration to the Democrat-led House Select Committee on Jan. 6, the panel investigating the origins of the Capitol riot.

A three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down arguments from the former president’s attorneys that Trump should have the ability to make broad claims of executive privilege in order to prevent the archives from sharing potentially sensitive information from his administration with members of Congress.

“On the record before us, former President Trump has provided no basis for this court to override President Biden’s judgment and the agreement and accommodations worked out between the Political Branches over these documents,” Judge Patricia Millett noted in a 68-page opinion for the panel.

The ruling was unanimous.

“Both Branches agree that there is a unique legislative need for these documents and that they are directly relevant to the Committee’s inquiry into an attack on the Legislative Branch and its constitutional role in the peaceful transfer of power,” Millett’s opinion continued.

Liz Harrington, a spokeswoman for the former president, vowed that he would immediately appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, noting that is where the case would have wound up either way the appeals court decided.

“Regardless of today’s decision by the appeals court, this case was always destined for the Supreme Court,” she noted on Twitter. “President Trump’s duty to defend the Constitution and the Office of the Presidency continues, and he will keep fighting for every American and every future Administration.”

The three-judge panel gave the former president 14 days to file his appeal with the Supreme Court before the National Archives could turn over the requested documents.

Following the court’s ruling, the Jan. 6 committee’s chair and co-chair, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), respectively, issued a statement commending the panel.

“We applaud the Court’s decisive ruling, which respects the Select Committee’s interest in obtaining White House records and the President’s judgment in allowing those records to be produced,” they said. “Our work moves ahead swiftly. We will get to the truth.”

Previously, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan denied Trump’s executive privilege claims; D.C. Circuit then moved to fast-track the case.

During oral arguments last month, the appeals panel appeared to be skeptical of claims by Trump’s lawyers that by refusing to honor a former president’s claim of executive privilege, the Biden administration was inflicting constitutional injury to the Executive Branch, The Hill reported.

In their decision, the three judges agreed that the former president’s attorneys did not provide substantive legal arguments that would justify blocking President Joe Biden’s waiver of executive privilege as well as the Jan. 6 committee’s request for records to support the Capitol riot investigation.

“He offers instead only a grab-bag of objections that simply assert without elaboration his superior assessment of Executive Branch interests, insists that Congress and the Committee have no legitimate legislative interest in an attack on the Capitol, and impugns the motives of President Biden and the House,” Millett noted in the opinion. “That falls far short of meeting his burden and makes it impossible for this court to find any likelihood of success.”

The panel also acknowledged the Legislative Branch had sufficient grounds to request the documents.

“As President Biden stated, the January 6th Committee has a ‘sufficient factual predicate’ for obtaining these presidential records, because of the President’s direct role in rallying his supporters, directing them to march to the Capitol and propagating the underlying false narrative of election fraud,” the opinion notes.

“The House has also presented evidence indicating that, leading up to January 6th, individuals encouraging ‘dramatic action’ on that day were in frequent contact with the White House,” it added.

Jon Dougherty


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