Court Battles

Jan. 6 panel urges Supreme Court to deny Trump bid to shield records

The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has asked the Supreme Court to turn away former President Trump’s effort to block the release of his administration’s records.

Lawyers for the House select committee in a court brief on Thursday pushed back against Trump’s claim of executive privilege over a trove of records that congressional investigators say are needed for their probe into the deadly riot.

“The Select Committee’s work is of the highest importance and urgency: investigating one of the darkest episodes in our nation’s history, a deadly assault on the United States Capitol and Congress, and an unprecedented disruption of the peaceful transfer of power from one President to the next,” they wrote.

“The investigation is indispensable to the Select Committee’s ability to propose remedial measures to ensure the peaceful transfer of power and prevent future attacks on our democratic institutions.”

Trump turned to the Supreme Court last week after lower federal courts in Washington, D.C., rejected his request to halt the National Archives from sending the records to congressional investigators.

The lower courts zeroed in on President Biden’s decision against invoking executive privilege over Trump-era schedules, call logs, emails and other requested documents. Biden declined to do so after determining that the House panel’s needs for the records exceeded any possible benefit to keeping them secret.

The Justice Department, on behalf of the Biden administration, filed briefs Thursday in support of the House panel’s position in the case.

“President Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege over the specific records at issue here is not in the interests of the Nation,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote. “A judicial decision allowing a former President to override that considered judgment would be an unprecedented intrusion on the incumbent President’s Article II authority.”

Trump has asked the justices to shield the disputed records from disclosure while they consider his formal appeal from a Dec. 9 ruling against him by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The former president maintains that the House panel’s probe lacks a legitimate legislative purpose. In a Wednesday brief, his lawyers argued that the committee is pursuing Trump’s records to build a case for a criminal referral to the Justice Department — calling it an “inquisitorial tribunal” whose “purpose is outside of any of Congress’s legislative powers.”

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. The panel reportedly aims to release its interim findings this summer.

The committee, which has urged the justices to consider the matter no later than mid-January, said delaying transfer of the records would cause “irreparable harm.”

“Indeed, the Select Committee’s investigation has already been negatively impacted: With each passing day, the Select Committee is being forced to conduct its investigation, including interviewing witnesses, without the benefit of the key documents at issue in this case,” their brief asserts.

Updated 3:54 p.m.

Tags Capitol breach Donald Trump Jan. 6 Committee Joe Biden

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