Attorneys for former president Donald Trump have asked the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to block the National Archives and Records Administration from turning over White House records generated before and during the 6 January insurrection to the House committee investigating that day’s events.
Last month, Mr Trump sued the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the Capitol, Representative Bennie Thompson (the committee’s chairman), Nara, and Archivist of the United States David Ferriero in a bid to keep the committee from gaining access to hundreds of documents — including call and visitor logs, memoranda, draft executive orders, and other records — created in the White House in the period leading up to the worst attack on the Capitol since the Burning of Washington in 1814.
The former president is claiming that he can block Congress from gaining access to the requested documents because they are protected under executive privilege, a legal doctrine which protects communications between and among a president and his advisers. Mr Trump filed the lawsuit after White House Counsel Dana Remus announced that President Joe Biden had decided to not make any claim of privilege over the documents, citing the “unique and extraordinary circumstances” presented by the attack, which was perpetrated by the former president’s supporters in hopes of preventing Congress from certifying Mr Biden’s 2020 election win.
Earlier this week, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Mr Trump’s request. In an opinion released late Tuesday, Judge Chutkan wrote that executive privilege belongs to the sitting president, and it is Mr Biden, not Mr Trump, who is in the best position to decide whether it is in the public interest for Congress to see the documents in question.
“Plaintiff does not acknowledge the deference owed to the incumbent president’s judgment. His position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity’,” she wrote.
“But presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not president. He retains the right to assert that his records are privileged, but the incumbent president ‘is not constitutionally obliged to honour’ that assertion,” she continued, adding later that Mr Biden’s decision not to use the privilege “is consistent with historical practice and his constitutional power”.