Washington: A US federal appeals court has ruled to reject former President Donald Trump’s bid to block the National Archives from turning over his administration’s records to a House panel investigating the January 6 Capitol riot.
On Thursday, the three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the arguments by the former President’s lawyers that their client could assert executive privilege to prevent the current administration from sharing the Trump White House’s documents with the House Select Committee to Investigate the attack, reports Xinhua news agency.
“The central question in this case is whether, despite the exceptional and imperative circumstances underlying the Committee’s request and President (Joe) Biden’s decision, a federal court can, at the former President’s behest, override President Biden’s decision not to invoke privilege and prevent his release to Congress of documents in his possession that he deems to be needed for a critical legislative inquiry,” Judge Patricia Millett wrote in a 68-page opinion for the panel.
“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.
“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,” the opinion added.
The court said the transfer of the records could begin in 14 days, before which Trump is allowed to ask the Supreme Court to intervene in the case.
Immediately following the ruling, the Trump team vowed to appeal it.
“Regardless of today’s decision by the appeals court, this case was always destined for the Supreme Court. 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,” said Liz Harrington, the former President’s spokesperson.
Trump in October sued the House committee and the National Archives to stop the Biden administration from allowing the release of his White House’s documents related to the insurrection on Capitol Hill.
Biden, in his capacity as the incumbent president, had denied Trump of his executive privilege covering the information requested, saying his predecessor’s effort to stonewall the congressional investigation was neither in the best interest of the US nor justified.
Trump’s suit, however, was quickly tossed out by Judge Tanya Chutkan of the US District Court for the District of Columbia (DDC). He then appealed the judge’s decision in the D.C. Circuit, which fast tracked the case.
The National Archives, which is the custodian of the records at issue, said in an October filing in the DDC that the records Trump wanted to keep from lawmakers totalled over 770 pages, including files related to Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff; Stephen Miller, Trump’s former senior adviser; and Patrick Philbin, his former deputy counsel.
Trump is also objecting to the release of the White House Daily Diary — which details a President’s movements, phone calls, trips, briefings, meetings and activities — as well as logs showing phone calls to Trump and to Vice President Mike Pence concerning events on January 6, according to the filing.
Trump has also asserted executive privilege over records containing proposed talking points for Kayleigh McEnany, his former press secretary; a handwritten note concerning January 6; a draft text of a presidential speech for the “Save America” rally that preceded the mob attack; and a draft executive order on the topic of election integrity, the filing said.
Resolute throughout the legal fight, Trump has instructed other key investigatees targeted by the select committee to cite the executive privilege and not cooperate with the probe.
The former President’s one-time chief strategist, Steve Bannon, did accordingly and, as a result, is now being criminally prosecuted for contempt of Congress.
Meadows also did what he was told by his former boss and is now facing the same criminal contempt referral from Congress to the Justice Department.