Trump files legal action to keep Congressional Jan.6 documents


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WASHINGTON (AP) – Former President Donald Trump on Monday sought to block disclosure of documents related to the Jan.6 Capitol uprising to a House committee investigating the attack, challenging President Joe Biden’s original decision to waive executive privilege.

In a federal lawsuit, Trump said the committee’s request in August was “almost unlimited in scope” and was looking for many documents that were unrelated to the siege. He called it an “illegal and vexatious fishing expedition” that was “detached from any legitimate legislative purpose,” according to documents filed in federal court for the District of Columbia.

Trump’s trial was expected because he had said he would challenge the investigation and at least one ally, Steve Bannon, defied a subpoena. But the court challenge has gone beyond the original 125 pages of documents Biden recently allowed to be disclosed to the committee.. The lawsuit, which appoints the committee as well as the National Archives, seeks to invalidate the entirety of Congress’ request, calling it too broad, unduly cumbersome and challenging the separation of powers. He seeks a court injunction to prohibit the archivist from producing the documents.

In a joint statement Monday night, President Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., And Republican Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, vice-chair of the panel, said they would fight the trial, which they said is ” nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct ”the investigation.

“There is a long history of the White House accepting congressional inquiries when the public interest trumps other concerns,” said Thompson and Cheney. “It’s hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers on an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election.”

The Biden administration, in approving the documents for release, said the violent siege of the Capitol over nine months ago was such an extraordinary circumstance that it deserved to forgo the privilege that usually protects White House communications.

Trump’s trial took place the day before the panel voted to recommend that Bannon be held in criminal contempt of Congress for his disregard of the committee’s demands for documents and testimony. In a resolution released Monday, the committee says the former Trump aide and podcast host has no legal standing to push back the committee, even though Trump’s attorney has asked him not to release information. Bannon was a private citizen when he spoke to Trump before the attack, the committee said, and Trump made no such claim of executive privilege from the panel itself.

The resolution lists many ways in which Bannon was involved in preparing for the insurgency, including reports that he encouraged Trump to focus on January 6, the day Congress certified the presidential vote, and his comments on Jan. 5 that “all hell is gonna come off” the next day.

“Sir. Bannon appears to have played a multi-faceted role in the events of January 6, and the American people have a right to hear his first-hand testimony regarding his actions,” the committee wrote.

Once the committee votes on the contempt of Bannon resolution, it will go to the plenary chamber for a vote and then to the Department of Justice, which would decide whether to proceed.

In a letter obtained by the Associated Press, the White House also worked to undermine Bannon’s argument. Deputy attorney Jonathan Su wrote that the president’s ruling on the documents also applied to Bannon, and “at this point we know of no basis for your client’s refusal to appear for a deposition.”

“President Biden’s determination that an assertion of privilege is not warranted with respect to these matters applies to your client’s testimony and to any documents your client may have relating to any one or the other. another topic, “Su wrote to Bannon’s lawyer.

Bannon’s attorney said he had yet to see the letter and could not comment on it. While Bannon has said he needs a court order before complying with his subpoena, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former White House and Pentagon aide Kashyap Patel negotiated with the committee. It’s unclear whether a fourth former White House aide Dan Scavino will comply.

The committee also subpoenaed more than a dozen people who helped plan Trump’s pre-siege rallies, and some of them have already said they will hand over documents and testify.

Lawmakers want the testimony and documents as part of their investigation into how a host of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building on January 6. a violent effort to stop the certification of Biden’s electoral victory. The committee demanded a wide range of documents from the executive regarding intelligence gathered before the attack, security preparations during and before the siege, pro-Trump rallies held that day, and Trump’s false claims that he had won the elections, among others.

Trump’s lawsuit says “the unlimited requests included more than fifty individual requests for documents and information, and listed more than thirty people, including those working inside and outside of government.”

The files should be withheld, the lawsuit says, as they could include “conversations with (or about) foreign leaders, the product of lawyer’s work, the most sensitive of national security secrets, as well as all communications. privileged among a pool of potentially hundreds of people. “

The lawsuit also challenges the legality of the Presidential Records Act, arguing that allowing a sitting president to waive the executive privilege of a predecessor just months after leaving office is inherently unconstitutional. Biden said he would go by each request separately to determine whether this privilege should be waived.

Although not spelled out in the Constitution, executive privilege has developed to protect a president’s ability to obtain frank advice from his advisers without fear of immediate public disclosure and to protect his confidential communications relating to to its official responsibilities.

But this privilege has had its limits in extraordinary situations, as evidenced by the Watergate scandal, when the Supreme Court ruled that it could not be used to protect the release of secret Oval Office recordings wanted in connection with ‘a criminal investigation, and following the terrorist attack of September 11. attacks.

Monday’s lawsuit was filed by Jesse Binnall, an attorney based in Alexandria, Va., Who represented Trump in an unsuccessful lawsuit late last year aimed at overturning Biden’s victory in Nevada. Trump and his allies continued to make baseless allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Trump’s lawsuit cites the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a House committees case asking for the incumbent president’s tax returns and other financial documents. But that case involved courts enforcing a subpoena from Congress. The high court in this case ordered the lower courts t o Apply a balancing test to determine whether to hand over records – it’s still pending.

White House spokesman Mike Gwin said: “As President Biden has determined, constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to protect information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the law. Constitution itself. ”

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Associated Press editors Mary Clare Jalonick, Nomaan Merchant, and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

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About Michael S. Montanez

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