OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion
As part of its investigation into the Jan. 6 protests at the Capitol, the House committee is urging the Supreme Court to follow an appeals court ruling that would allow the National Archives to turn over documents from former President Donald Trump.
As a result of executive privilege, Trump requested that the Supreme Court block the Jan. 6 committee from getting the documents.
The committee’s lawyers argued in a filing with the court on Thursday that the panel has the right to seek the information.
“Although the facts are unprecedented, this case is not a difficult one,” the House committee’s lawyers wrote in a filing with the high court on Thursday. “This Court’s review is unwarranted, and the petition for a writ of certiorari should be denied.”
There is an investigation of both Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6, as well as his efforts in the months before to challenge election results or obstruct a peaceful transfer of power – and his efforts in the months before.
In the contested documents, there are handwritten notes on what was happening that day as well as call logs from Trump’s call center and Vice President Mike Pence as he oversaw Electoral College vote counting as the Senate’s president.
Trump has attacked the work of the committee while calling into question the results of the election. Joe Biden was declared the winner by all 50 states. All of Trump’s election claims were eventually rebuffed by courts throughout the country.
Trump’s lawyers state that the committee has “no legitimate legislative purpose” for going after the documents, so making them public would damage the executive privilege of future presidents.
Donald Trump’s lawyers last week asked the Supreme Court to hear their argument that executive privilege prevents the release of the documents, saying that the committee is engaged in “meandering fishing expeditions.”
According to the investigation committee, the documents, including presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts, and handwritten notes, will be crucial in determining who is responsible for the deadly riot at the Capitol intended to overturn the 2020 election results.
There is a possibility that the Supreme Court will not hear the appeal. Consequently, the federal appeals court’s ruling Dec. 9 would be the last word in the case.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Trump’s assertions of executive privilege, saying Congress has a “uniquely vital interest” in reviewing Jan. 6’s events. The panel also focused on Biden’s assertion that the documents were of public interest and that executive privilege should not be invoked.
There is now a question of whether at least four justices will agree to hear the case. Six conservative jurists sit on the court, including three Trump appointees, and several issues have arisen since Trump’s lawyers filed their original petition and may be of interest to the court.
As reported by The Associated Press on Tuesday, the Biden administration requested that the House committee defer its efforts to request some documents. In an effort to preserve national security and executive privilege, the White House was worried that releasing all of the Trump administration documents would compromise national security.
A Dec. 16 letter from the White House counsel’s office memorializes the agreement to keep some Trump records from the committee. A majority of the records are shielded, as the committee’s request for documents about the events of Jan. 6 covered records that were not directly related to those events.
In spite of the agreement’s focus on specific concerns, the potential narrowing of the document requests acknowledges its broad scope. A lot of words like broad, overly broad, strikingly broad and hopelessly broad are used in Trump’s lawyers’ filing to the Supreme Court. Trump also noticed this.
As a result of the disclosure of the agreement, the former president said the committee had “just dropped a large portion of their request for my records and documents — a very big story” and the action “also changes the entire complexion of their request.”
In a supplemental request on Wednesday, Trump’s lawyers asked the court to investigate an interview that committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., gave to The Washington Post. Thompson explained that the committee is looking into Trump’s actions the day of the “insurrection” to determine whether recommending the Justice Department open a criminal investigation is possible.
According to the filing, such an action would be outside the committee’s legislative purpose. “It cannot embark on what is essentially a law enforcement investigation with the excuse that it might legislate based on information it turns up in the course of the exploration,” the filing said.
With the Supreme Court, Trump’s attempt to limit investigations has met with mixed results. Early this year, the court refused to prevent his tax records from being forwarded to a New York prosecutor’s office for an investigation. Nevertheless, it prevented Congress last year, while Trump was still in office, from obtaining his and his family’s financial records.