Washington (AP) – Former President Donald Trump on Monday sought to block a congressional committee investigating the attack from releasing documents related to the January 6 Capitol uprising, challenging President Joe Biden’s initial decision to waive executive privileges.
In a federal lawsuit, Trump said the committee’s request was “almost unlimited in scope,” and sought a record of no proper connection to that day. According to papers filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, they called it a “disturbing, illegal fishing campaign” that was “immoral for any legitimate legislative purpose.”
Trump’s trial was expected, as he said he would challenge the investigation and that at least one aide, Steve Bannon, has defied a subpoena. But the legal challenge went beyond the initial 125 pages of the record that Biden recently approved the release of the committee. The suit, which names the committee as well as the National Archives, attempts to invalidate the entirety of Congress’s request, calling it overly broad, unnecessarily burdensome and a challenge to separation of powers. It requests a court injunction to prevent the archivist from producing the document.
The Biden administration, approving the documents for release, said that the violent siege of the Capitol was such an extraordinary circumstance that it deserved to be waived of the privilege that usually protects White House communications.
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the White House worked to reduce Bannon’s argument ahead of a scheduled committee vote on whether to recommend criminal contempt charges against him. Bannon is a one-time White House adviser who left the administration several years before the rebellion.
Deputy counsel Jonathan Su wrote that the president’s decision on the documents also applied to Bannon, and “we are not aware of any grounds for refusing to appear for your client’s statement at this point.”
Su wrote to Bannon’s lawyer, “President Biden’s determination that a claim of privilege with respect to these subjects is not justified applies to the testimony of your client’s statement and to any document your client may have relating to any subject.” Is.”
Bannon’s lawyer said he had not yet seen the letter and could not comment. 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 are in talks with the committee. It is unclear whether Dan Scavino, a fourth former White House aide, will comply.
The committee has also summoned more than a dozen people who helped plan Trump rallies before the siege, and some of them have already said they will turn over documents and testify.
Lawmakers want documents as part of their investigation into how a crowd of Trump supporters stormed Capitol Building on January 6th In a violent attempt to prevent authentication of Biden’s election victory. The committee sought a wide range of executive branch papers relating to intelligence gathered before the attack, security preparedness during and before the siege, pro-Trump rallies held that day and Trump’s false claims that he won the election, among others. between cases.
Trump’s lawsuit states that “the limitless requests included more than fifty individual requests for documents and information, and referred to more than thirty individuals, including those working inside and outside the government.”
The lawsuit states that the files should be withheld because they contain “conversations with (or about) foreign leaders, the product of the lawyer’s work, the most sensitive of national security secrets, as well as among a pool of potentially hundreds Any and all privileged communications may include people.”
The lawsuit also challenges the validity of the Presidential Records Act, arguing that it is inherently unconstitutional to allow an incumbent president to relinquish the executive privilege of a predecessor just months after he leaves office. Biden has said he will Through each request separately to determine whether that privilege should be waived.
While not spelled out in the Constitution, executive privilege evolved to protect the president’s ability to obtain explicit advice from his advisers without fear of immediate public disclosure, and to protect his confidential communications relating to official responsibilities. Is.
But there are limits to that privilege in exceptional circumstances, as exemplified during the Watergate scandal, when the Supreme Court ruled that the release of secret Oval Office tapes sought in criminal investigations and after the September 11 terrorist attacks was limited. cannot be used. .
Monday’s lawsuit was filed by Jesse Binnell, an attorney based in Alexandria, Virginia, who represented Trump in an unsuccessful trial to overturn Biden’s victory in Nevada late last year. Trump and his allies continue to make baseless claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Trump’s lawsuit is cited by the US Supreme Court’s 2020 decision on a case by House committees seeking tax returns and other financial records of the then-president. But that case involved courts enforcing Congressional summons. In that case the High Court had directed the lower courts that o Apply a balancing test to determine whether to activate records — this is still pending.
Neither the White House nor the selection committee immediately commented.