Donald Trump has tried to block the release of documents related to the attack on the U.S. Capitol to a House committee investigating the incident, challenging Joe Biden’s initial decision to waive executive privilege.
In a federal lawsuit, the former president said the committee’s request in August was “almost unlimited in scope” and was looking for many records that were unrelated to the siege.
He called it an “illegal and vexatious fishing expedition” that was “free from any legitimate legislative purpose,” according to documents filed in federal court in the District of Columbia.
Trump’s lawsuit was expected, as he had said he would challenge the investigation, and at least one ally, Steve Bannon, has challenged a subpoena, prompting the committee to consider holding Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress and scheduling a meeting to vote Tuesday night. in pursuing such action.
Late on Monday, the White House stood firm in its refusal to enforce privileged protections on the documents the committee wants to see as it explores the actions taken by Trump and his aides before and during the January 6 insurrection, when the Extremist Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the November presidential election.
The White House issued a statement saying that Trump “abused the office of the presidency and attempted to subvert a peaceful transfer of power.”
A White House spokesman, Mike Gwin, said: “The former president’s actions posed a unique, and existential, threat to our democracy that cannot be hidden under the rug. As President Biden determined, constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to protect information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the constitution itself. “
Bannon and three of Trump’s other former senior advisers, Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino and Kash Patel, were instructed to assist in the committee’s efforts to obtain more information about the attack, which left five people dead.
Trump’s legal challenge on Monday went beyond the initial 125 pages of records that Biden previously authorized for release to the committee.
The lawsuit, which names both the committee and the National Archives, seeks to invalidate the entirety of Congress’ request, calling it too broad, unduly burdensome and a challenge to the separation of powers. Request a court order to prohibit the archivist from presenting the documents.
The Biden administration, in approving the documents for release, said the violent siege of the Capitol more than nine months ago was such an extraordinary circumstance that it warranted relinquishing the privilege that generally protected White House communications.
In a resolution released Monday, the committee says the former Trump aide and podcast host has no legal standing to reject the committee, even when 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 had not made any claims of executive privilege to the panel.
The resolution lists many ways in which Bannon was involved in the run-up to the insurrection, including reports that he encouraged Trump to rally on January 6, the day Congress certified the presidential vote, and his comments on January 5. January that “all hell is going to break loose” the next day.
“Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multifaceted role in the events of January 6, and the American people have a right to hear his first-hand testimony of his actions,” the committee wrote.
Once the committee votes on Bannon’s contempt resolution, it will go to the full House for a vote and then to the justice department, which will decide whether to prosecute.
In a letter obtained by the Associated Press, the White House also worked to undermine Bannon’s argument. Assistant attorney Jonathan Su wrote that the president’s decision on the documents also applied to Bannon, and “at this time we are not aware of any basis for his client’s refusal to appear for a deposition.
“President Biden’s determination that an assertion of privilege is unwarranted with respect to these matters applies to his client’s deposition testimony and any documents his client may possess on any of the matters,” Su wrote to counsel for Bannon.
Bannon’s attorney said he had not yet seen the letter and was unable to comment on it.
While Bannon has said he needs a warrant before complying with his subpoena, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former White House and Pentagon aide Kashyap Patel have been negotiating with the committee. . It’s unclear whether a fourth former White House aide, Dan Scavino, will deliver.
The committee has also cited more than a dozen people who helped plan Trump’s rallies before the siege, with some of them saying they would hand over documents and give testimony.
Trump’s lawsuit says the “unlimited requests included more than 50 individual requests for documents and information, and named more than 30 people, including those working in and out of government.”
The files should be retained, the suit says, because they could include “conversations with (or about) foreign leaders, products of the work of lawyers, the most sensitive of national security secrets, along with each and every privileged communication between a group of potentially hundreds of people. “
The lawsuit also questions the legality of the Presidential Records Act, arguing that allowing a sitting president to relinquish the executive privilege of a predecessor just months after he left office is inherently unconstitutional.
But that privilege has had its limitations in extraordinary situations, as exemplified during the Watergate scandal, when the supreme court ruled that it could not be used to protect the disclosure of secret Oval Office tapes sought in a criminal investigation, and after the 11 of September.
Committee members have dismissed the legitimacy of the resistance to their requests for records.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism