January 29, 2022

Appeals court deals blow to Trump effort to shield documents from Jan. 6 panel

Former President Trump received some bad โ€“ though not wholly unexpected โ€“ news this week when a federal appeals court blocked his attempt to shield a trove of documents from the House committee charged with probing the Jan. 6 unrest at the U.S. Capitol, as the Associated Press reports.

In seeking the materials at issue, the House committee’s lawyers argued, as Newsmax noted, that the information was needed for those lawmakers to “complete a thorough investigation into how the actions of the former president, his advisers, and other government officials may have contributed to the attack on Congress to impede the peaceful transfer of presidential power.”

Advisers such as former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and Steve Bannon have asserted executive privilege as part of their strategy to avoid complying with the committee’s demands, the latter already having been charged with contempt, and the former likely to face the same fate.

In Meadows’ estimation, the subpoenas issued by the House committee were “breathtaking” in terms of the breadth of their scope, standing in stark contrast to the “limited in very focused” basis to which he was accustomed to seeing during his time in the lower chamber, and he added that what the panel is doing constitutes “an abuse of power.”

The appeals court declared in its ruling that the committee has a “uniquely vital interest” in examining what went wrong on that fateful day, adding that President Joe Biden had engaged in a “carefully reasoned” assessment about the public interest in the materials at issue and that Trump’s assertion of executive privilege should not prevail.

In writing for the panel, Judge Patricia Millett made the further observation that Trump did not demonstrate any harm that would follow from release of the requested records โ€“ which include presidential diaries, handwritten notes, draft speeches, and more โ€“ and “provided no basis for this court to override President Biden’s judgment and the agreement and accommodations worked out between the Political Branches over these documents.”

As a result, an injunction that has thus far blocked the National Archives from providing the House committee with the materials will either expire in two weeks’ time or once the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in on an imminently anticipated appeal from Trump, whichever comes later.

Unsurprisingly, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Liz Cheney (R-WY) were pleased with the outcome, opining that the ruling “respects the Select Committee’s interest in obtaining White House records and the President’s judgment in allowing those records to be produced.”

Trump spokesperson Liz Harrington, however, indicated that the battle is nowhere near finished, and that “Regardless of today’s decision by the appeals court, this case was always destined for the Supreme Court.”

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