Trump files lawsuit to keep Jan. 6 documents from Congress

WASHINGTON (AP), Former President Donald Trump tried to stop the release of documents relating to Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection to a Congress committee investigating the attack. This challenge was made against President Joe Biden's original decision to waive executive privilege.
Trump claimed that the request of the committee was almost unlimited in scope and sought records that had no connection to that particular day. According to papers filed in federal court in District of Columbia, Trump called it an illegal, vexatious fishing expedition that was not tied to any legitimate legislative purpose.

Trump's lawsuit was not unexpected. He had previously stated that he would challenge the investigation. At least one of his ally, Steve Bannon has also defied a subpoena. The legal challenge went far beyond the initial 125 pages that Biden had approved for release to the committee. The suit names both the National Archives and the committee. It seeks to invalidate the entire congressional request. The suit seeks a court injunction that prohibits the archivist from releasing the documents.

In clearing out the documents for release, the Biden administration stated that the violent seizure of the Capitol was an exceptional circumstance and that it merited to be waived the privilege that normally protects communications from the White House.

The Associated Press obtained a letter from the White House revealing that it attempted to undermine Bannon's argument in advance of a committee vote to recommend criminal contempt charges against his. Bannon was a former White House adviser, who resigned from the administration in the years prior to the insurrection.

Jonathan Su, Deputy Counsel, wrote that the president's decision regarding the documents also applied to Bannon. At this point, we don't know of any reason for your clients refusing to appear for depositions.

President Biden's decision that privilege assertions are not justified in respect to these subjects is applicable to your client's deposition testimony as well as any documents your client may have concerning either subject. Su wrote to Bannon.

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Bannon's lawyer said that he hadn't yet seen the letter so could not comment. Bannon said that he requires a court order to comply with his subpoena. However, Kashyap Patel, the former White House Chief Of Staff and White House Pentagon aide Kashyap Pavtel are currently negotiating with members of the committee. It is not clear if Dan Scavino (another former White House aide) will comply.

The committee also subpoenaed over a dozen people involved in planning Trump rallies before the siege. Some of these individuals have already indicated that they will turn over documents and testify.

The documents are needed by lawmakers as part of an investigation into the violent attack on the Capitol Building Jan. 6 by Trump supporters to stop the certification of Biden's election win. The committee requested a wide range of executive branch papers relating to intelligence gathered prior to the attack, security preparedments during and after the siege and the pro-Trump rallies that day, as well as Trump's false claims that the election was won.

Trump's lawsuit claims that the boundless requests contained over 50 individual requests for documents or information. It also mentioned more than 30 individuals, both inside and outside of government.

According to the lawsuit, the files must be withheld as they may contain conversations with or about foreign leaders, attorney product, sensitive national security secrets and any privileged communications between a group of hundreds.

This suit also challenges the legality and constitutionality of the Presidential Records Act. It argues that the Presidential Records Act allowing an incumbent president, to waive executive privilege of their predecessors just months after they have left office is fundamentally unconstitutional. Biden stated that he would review each request individually to determine if the privilege should be waived.

Executive privilege, although not explicitly stated in the Constitution is designed to allow a president to get candid counsel from his advisors without fear of immediate disclosure. It also protects his confidential communications regarding official responsibilities.

However, this privilege is subject to limitations in exceptional situations. This was evident during the Watergate scandal when the Supreme Court ruled that it could not be used as a shield for the release of secret Oval Office tapes in criminal investigations and after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Jesse Binnall of Alexandria, Virginia filed Monday's lawsuit. Binnall was an attorney who represented Trump in a failed lawsuit last year to reverse Biden's win in Nevada. Trump and his associates continue to make unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud in 2020.

Trump's suit is based on the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case brought by House committees to obtain the tax returns and financial records of the former-sitting president. However, that case involved courts applying a congressional subpoena. In that case, the high court directed lower courts to apply a balance test to determine if they should turn over records still pending.

The White House and the select committee did not immediately respond to the request.

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This report was contributed by Eric Tucker, Nomaan merchant, Mary Clare Jalonick and Nomaan Merchant, Associated Press Writers.

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