Trump Strikes Back

Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit against the House Committee hearing. This pertains to the Capitol incident and the National Archives to prevent the release of his White House papers connected to the episode.

On Monday, the attorneys for the previous president filed a 26-page lawsuit in D.C. district court, calling the commission’s inquiry “an unreasonable, illegal fishing operation.”

It identifies Democrat Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chair of the Jan. 6 committee, and David Ferriero, the federal archivist, as well as the panel and the records themselves.

The Legal Argument is Compelling

Trump’s team of lawyers claims the committee’s demand for massive information from his administration (including internal contacts with lawyers, campaign workers, and senior government officials) would infringe presidential protection.

In their lawsuit, Trump’s defense attorneys ask a federal court to declare the select commission’s demand invalid. The lawyers also seek to prevent the records from turning over any components to Congress in response to requests.

Moreover, Trump’s attorneys want to specifically prohibit the Archives from turning over any files that Trump claims are protected by executive authority.

Trump’s legal team finally wants the court to order the Archives to find all papers from Trump’s White House that might be relevant to the request; then Trump’s lawyers want to examine them thoroughly before releasing them to Congress.

It’s possible this process will take years.

The complaint is the beginning of a long-running, high-stakes legal battle over congressional probes and executive power. The Supreme Court accepted, in the Nixon period, past presidents could have an interest in keeping records out of the public eye.

However, this is the first time a current president and his successor have had a public court battle over whether or not to invoke executive privilege. The core of Trump’s argument is twofold.

First, it argues the commission’s demand for records on Jan. 6 is so wide it is unlawful; secondly, the action claims the committee’s pursuit of the records lacks a valid “legislative purpose.”

Both points were made in a lawsuit filed by Trump in 2019 in response to Democrats’ request for his financial documents from the accountancy company, Mazars USA.

The Mazars lawsuit resulted in a Supreme Court judgment that set restrictions on congressional investigations into current administrations (but not former presidents). It also highlighted Congress’ extensive rights to demand information about its legislative activities.

Will It Work?

Trump’s team is relying on a need for federal investigators to show they want documents to aid in their law-making process. This process is to argue the Jan. 6 panel lacks a viable legislative reason for seeking White House documents.

“The council perused its own Constitution broadly and appears to believe it has been given carte blanche to request a broad set of records and documents,” Trump’s team claims.