Court Battles

Ex-White House, DOJ officials urge Supreme Court to reject Trump effort to stymie Jan. 6 probe

A group of former executive branch lawyers on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to reject an effort by former President Trump to hamper the House committee investigation into the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The group of legal heavyweights, comprising a half dozen former White House and top Justice Department lawyers who served under Republican presidents, argued in an amicus brief that Trump’s assertion of executive privilege over his administration’s records is outweighed by congressional investigators’ pursuit of the facts surrounding the Trump-inspired insurrection.

“Congress is now investigating those events and determining how to prevent unsuccessful candidates from attempting to undermine our democracy in the future,” they wrote. “Amici believe that the documents at issue should be turned over given, among other things, the importance of the House investigation into the January 6th attack and the current president’s reasonable determination that executive privilege should not be asserted in this case.”

President Biden declined to invoke executive privilege over Trump-era schedules, call logs, emails and other documents after concluding that the House select committee’s need for records surpassed any possible benefit the executive branch might gain from keeping them under wraps.

The former government attorneys also pushed back against Trump’s claim that congressional investigators lack a legitimate legislative purpose for requesting his administration’s records.

“It is difficult to imagine a more compelling interest than the House’s interest in determining what legislation might be necessary to respond to the most significant attack on the Capitol in 200 years and the effort to undermine our basic form of government that that attack represented,” they wrote.

Among the brief’s authors are Donald Ayer, who served in top Department of Justice (DOJ) roles under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush; Peter Keisler, a high-ranking DOJ official under President George W. Bush and an associate White House counsel under Reagan; and Carter Phillips, an assistant to the solicitor general under Reagan and who regularly advocates before the Supreme Court.

The Jan. 6 attack resulted in the death of four pro-Trump rioters, including a woman shot by Capitol police. A Capitol Police officer suffered a fatal stroke a day after sustaining injuries in the melee, and four other members of law enforcement who responded that day have since died by suicide. More than 700 rioters face charges.

The House later formed a bipartisan select committee to investigate the attack and consider legislative measures to further secure the Capitol and make U.S. democracy less vulnerable.  

Trump and many close political allies have resisted the panel’s requests for information. 

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., rejected Trump’s request to block the National Archives from handing over records to the House committee, prompting his emergency request last week to the Supreme Court.

The House panel is expected to file a court brief on Thursday.

Tags Capitol breach Capitol insurrection Capitol riot Donald Trump Executive privilege Jan. 6 Capitol attack Jan. 6 Committee Joe Biden Presidency of Donald Trump

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