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Trump asks Supreme Court to stop release of White House records

Court rejects Trump's bid to shield records
Court rejects former President Trump's effort to withhold January 6 records 08:42

Washington — Former President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to stop the transfer of certain White House documents housed in the National Archives to the congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The former president appealed a decision from a three-judge panel on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which earlier this month rejected Trump's efforts to shield his records from the January 6 House select committee. 

The D.C. Circuit temporarily halted the release of the records to the committee and gave the former president 14 days to ask the Supreme Court to weigh in.

In the filing asking the justices to take up his dispute, Trump's attorneys argued investigators' request for records is "strikingly broad" and "untethered from any valid legislative purpose." The request, they continued, exceeds congressional authority under the Constitution and the Presidential Records Act, which governs the records of presidents.

"The records of a former president are not distributed freely upon the conclusion of his term of office, even to Congress," Trump's lawyers told the court. "Except in extraordinary circumstances, records are protected from disclosure for a considerable amount of time after a president has left office."

Lawyers for the former president also argued his White House records must be protected under the idea of executive privilege, which holds that certain presidential communications can be shielded from scrutiny and kept confidential.

"Despite clear precedent and the unambiguous dictates of statute, the D.C. Circuit upheld the Committee's broad requests and refused to honor President Trump's well established claims of executive privilege," wrote the former president's attorneys.  

Trump's lawyers told the justices that the committee's request for his record "should have been rejected out-of-hand."

"At stake is the ability of presidents — past, current, and future — to rely upon executive privilege, separation of powers, and the Presidential Records Act to protect confidential presidential records of deliberations from premature production to political rivals," they said.

Trump sued the committee investigating the January 6 assault on the Capitol in October after President Biden rejected the former president's assertion of executive privilege over the documents sought by the panel. The House committee is seeking documents and communications connected to January 6, including records related to Trump's prepared and actual public remarks from November 3, 2020, through January 20.

Since the former president filed his lawsuit, the National Archives revealed that it had identified over 1,500 pages pertinent to the committee's request. These include daily presidential diaries, the files of then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, multiple binders belonging to then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and White House talking points alleging voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. 

Trump has since argued that about 750 of those documents, which are at the center of the current lawsuit, should remain confidential under claims of executive privilege. 

"While the protections of executive privilege and restrictions on access to presidential records are qualified, it is critical that future presidents and their advisers understand the contours and perimeters of that privilege — and its exceptions — after the conclusion of a presidential term," Trump's lawyers said. "Otherwise, the deliberative process of advising presidents will be chilled, as advisers will doubtless understand the audience of their deliberations is not simply the president in whose administration they serve but also Congress and their political rivals."

The requests for information from the select committee, including Trump's White House records, have spurned numerous legal challenges, as former White House aides have refused to turn over the documents, citing the former president's claims of executive privilege.

Meadows earlier this month filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to nullify subpoenas issued by the House committee for testimony and phone records, as did Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser. Both Meadows and Flynn claimed the subpoenas issued by the select committee are overbroad and lack a legislative purpose.

Trump himself has in the past sought intervention from the Supreme Court in efforts to shield his financial records from congressional investigators and the Manhattan district attorney. The former president appointed three justices to the high court, expanding its conservative majority to 6-3.

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