Former President Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit in federal court to block a request for his presidential records submitted to the National Archives by the Democrat-controlled Jan. 6 committee looking into the Capitol riot.
“The Committee’s request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration,” says the lawsuit. “Our laws do not permit such an impulsive, egregious action against a former President and his close advisors.”
The suit comes in response to the Biden administration’s refusal earlier this month to assert executive privilege to protect the confidentiality of the previous administration.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the administration directed presidential record keepers to provide the information to the select committee, adding that President Joe Biden promised to support the investigation.
“As a part of this process, the president has determined an assertion of executive privilege is not warranted for the first set of documents from the Trump White House that have been provided to us by the National Archives,” she told reporters.
“This is just the first set of documents, and we will evaluate claims of privilege on a case by case basis, but the president has also been clear he believes it to be of the utmost importance for both Congress and the American people to have a complete understanding of the events of that day to prevent them from happening again,” Psaki added.
But Trump’s lawsuit argues that historically, administrations have jealously guarded executive privilege as a means of protecting confidential communications, conversations, and other Executive Branch functions where there is an expectation they will be kept private in order to protect the integrity of concerned parties. He also asserted constitutional protections.
“As it relates to any materials being sought in situations like this, where fundamental privileges and constitutional issues are at stake and where a committee has declined to grant sufficient time to conduct a full review, there is a longstanding bipartisan tradition of protective assertions of executive privilege designed to ensure the ability to make a final assertion, if necessary, over some or all of the requested material,” his lawsuit states.
The select committee released a joint statement from the chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), and vice-chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), in which they pledged to “fight the former President’s attempt to obstruct our investigation.”
“The former President’s clear objective is to stop the Select Committee from getting to the facts about January 6th and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe. Precedent and law are on our side. Executive privilege is not absolute and President Biden has so far declined to invoke that privilege,” both said in a statement on Monday.
“Additionally, there’s a long history of the White House accommodating congressional investigative requests when the public interest outweighs other concerns. It’s hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election,” they added.
It’s not clear how the lawsuit will hold up in court, The Hill reported, adding that the “Supreme Court has previously ruled that former presidents have some authority to assert executive privilege, but the full scope of it has never been addressed by the courts.”
Judges will have to weigh the need for presidents to protect the integrity and independence of the Executive Branch versus the select committee’s need for the records, the outlet further noted. To that point, Trump’s suit argues that the panel hasn’t demonstrated a legitimate need for the records that it is necessary to override the executive privilege claim.
Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for Trump, noted in a Monday tweet: “Today, President Trump filed a lawsuit in defense of the Constitution, the Office of the President, and the future of our nation, all of which the sham Unselect Committee is trying to destroy.”
Today, President Trump filed a lawsuit in defense of the Constitution, the Office of the President, and the future of our nation, all of which the sham Unselect Committee is trying to destroy. https://t.co/l8ZYQok4yh
— Taylor Budowich (@TayFromCA) October 18, 2021
Earlier, after the White House announced it had directed the National Archives to provide the committee with the requested information, Trump released a statement accusing Democrats of attempting “to use Congress to persecute their political opponents.”
“Biden has rejected our request to withhold White House information from the House Unselect Committee investigating the January 6th protest, but has not taken a stance on the insurrection that took place on November 3rd, often referred to as the Crime of the Century,” he noted.
“This will put the current White House in a terrible position when the inevitable request for information comes concerning the massive corruption by Hunter Biden and the already well-documented crimes committed by the Biden family, the least of which are Hunter’s paintings selling for as much as $500,000 a piece,” he continued. “With our Country collapsing, with our Military disgraced, with our Borders nonexistent, when will the American people have had enough?”
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