Appeals court rejects Trump effort to deny records to Jan. 6 panel
A federal appeals court on Thursday denied former President Trump’s effort to block the National Archives from turning over his White House’s records to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
A three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected Trump’s lawyers’ arguments that the former president could wield claims of executive privilege to prevent the current administration from sharing the documents with 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 wrote in a 68-page opinion for the panel.
“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.”
Trump spokesperson Liz Harrington quickly vowed Trump would take the case to the Supreme Court.
“Regardless of today’s decision by the 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,” she tweeted.
Regardless of today’s decision by the 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
— Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) December 9, 2021
The panel gave Trump 14 days to ask the Supreme Court to review the decision before the Archives could begin turning over the records.
A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
In a statement Thursday evening, House committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) commended the court’s decision.
“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 in the statement. “Our work moves ahead swiftly. We will get to the truth.”
The ruling upholds a district court judge’s decision to deny Trump’s request for an injunction that would block the Archives from complying with the select committee’s request for large tranches of records from key officials in the administration.
Trump quickly appealed the decision from U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan and the D.C. Circuit fast-tracked the case.
The panel appeared skeptical during oral arguments last month, when Trump’s lawyers argued that Biden’s refusal to honor the former president’s executive privilege assertions posed constitutional harms to the executive branch.
In the decision issued Thursday, the panel said Trump’s lawyers had failed to provide any substantive legal arguments that would outweigh Biden’s waiver of executive privilege and the select committee’s need for the records in support of its investigation into the attack on the Capitol.
“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 wrote 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 decision also recognized the select committee’s right to request the documents and ruled that it had sufficient reason to probe the White House over the events of Jan. 6.
“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 reads. “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.”
Trump and his allies have been seeking to frustrate the select committee’s efforts to obtain information from the previous White House. If the D.C. Circuit decision stands, it will likely have legal implications for the Trump inner circle’s ongoing battles with the select committee as well as the criminal prosecution against former White House strategist Steve Bannon for defying a subpoena from lawmakers.
The decision comes a day after former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows filed a civil lawsuit against the committee arguing that subpoenas for his testimony and personal phone records are unlawful, citing Trump’s claims of executive privilege.
Updated at 8:46 p.m.