Posted by JILL COLVIN, COLYN LONG and ZIKE MILLER
WASHINGTON (AP) – Former President Donald Trump on Monday tried to block the release of documents related to the January 6 Capitol uprising by a House committee investigating the attack, challenging President Joe Biden’s initial decision to relinquish executive privilege.
In a federal lawsuit, Trump said the committee’s August request was “almost limitless,” and requested a variety of non-siege documents. According to documents filed with a federal court in the District of Columbia, he called it an “annoying illegal fishing expedition” that was “unrelated to any legitimate purpose.”
Trump’s suit was anticipated as he said he would challenge the investigation and at least one ally, Steve Bannon, withdrew the subpoena. But the legal issue went beyond the original 125 pages of notes that Biden recently approved for submission to the committee. The lawsuit, which mentions the committee as well as the National Archives, seeks to invalidate the entire Congressional request, calling it too broad, overly burdensome and challenging the separation of powers. It requires an injunction prohibiting the archivist from providing documents.
The Biden administration, when negotiating documents for the release, said the violent siege of the Capitol more than nine months ago was such an extraordinary circumstance that it deserves to relinquish the privilege that normally protects the White House connection.
Trump’s lawsuit came the night before a scheduled commission vote to recommend the arrest of Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress for ignoring the committee’s demands for documents and testimony. In a resolution released on Monday, the committee argues that the former Trump aide and podcast host has no legal right to rebuff the committee, even though Trump’s lawyer asked him not to divulge the information. The committee said Bannon was a private individual when he spoke to Trump ahead of the attack, and Trump made no claim to such executive privileges to the commission itself.
The resolution lists the many ways Bannon has been involved in preparing the uprising, including reporting that he urged Trump to focus on January 6, the day that Congress confirmed the presidential vote, and his January 5 comments that “everyone, damn, going to break out “the next day.
“Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multifaceted role in the January 6 events, and the American people have a right to hear his testimonies of his actions first-hand,” the committee wrote.
After the committee votes on Bannon’s contempt of court resolution, it will move to a full house vote and then the Justice Department, which will decide whether to pursue a case.
In a letter received by the Associated Press, the White House also tried to refute Bannon’s arguments. Deputy Legal Counsel Jonathan Su wrote that the president’s decision on the documents also extended to Bannon, and “at this time we do not know of any reason for your client’s refusal to appear to testify.”
“President Biden’s determination that assertion of privilege is not warranted in relation to these issues applies to your client’s testimony and to any documents your client may have on any of these issues,” Su wrote to Bannon’s lawyer.
Bannon’s lawyer said he had not yet seen the letter and could not comment on it. While Bannon said he needed a court order before he could execute the subpoena, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former White House and Pentagon aide Kashyap Patel were in talks with the committee. It’s unclear if fourth former White House aide Dan Scavino will comply.
The committee has also summoned more than a dozen people who helped plan Trump’s pre-siege rallies, some of whom have already said they will hand over documents and testify.
Lawmakers are seeking evidence and documents as part of an investigation into how a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building on January 6 in an attempt to thwart assurances of Biden’s election victory. The committee demanded a wide range of executive documents related to intelligence gathered before the attack, security preparations during and before the siege, the rallies of Trump supporters that day, and Trump’s false claims that he won the election, among other things.
Trump’s lawsuit states that “the limitless requests included more than fifty individual requests for documents and information and referred to more than thirty people, including those working in and outside the government.”
The lawsuit says the files must be hidden because they could include “conversations with (or about) foreign leaders, the results of lawyers, the most important national security secrets, and any and all confidential communications among a pool of potentially hundreds of people. people.”
The lawsuit also challenges the legality of the Presidential Records Act, arguing that allowing an incumbent president to relinquish his predecessor’s executive privileges just months after they left office is inherently unconstitutional. Biden said he will review each request separately to determine if this privilege should be waived.
Although not written into the constitution, the executive power privilege was designed to protect the president’s ability to obtain frank advice from his advisers without fear of immediate public disclosure, and to protect his confidential communications regarding official duties.
But this privilege had its limitations in emergencies, as demonstrated during the Watergate scandal, when the Supreme Court ruled that it should not be used to cover up the release of secret Oval Office tapes wanted by criminal investigations and after the 9/11 attacks. attacks.
The lawsuit was filed Monday by Jesse Binnall, an Alexandria, Virginia-based lawyer who represented Trump in an unsuccessful lawsuit late last year to overturn Biden’s victory in Nevada. Trump and his allies continue to make unfounded allegations of fraudulent elections in 2020.
Trump’s lawsuit cites a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on House committees that request tax returns and other financial statements from the incumbent. But this case involved congressional subpoenas. The High Court in this case ordered the lower courts to apply the equilibrium test to determine whether to transfer records – it is still pending.
White House spokesman Mike Gwynne said: “As President Biden has defined, constitutional protection of executive privileges should not be used to protect information that reflects blatant and obvious attempts to undermine the Constitution itself.” The selection committee did not immediately comment.
Associated Press contributors Mary Claire Jalonik, Nomaan Merchant, and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.