Lawyers for former President Donald Trump on Thursday asked a federal appeals court to temporarily block the National Archives from turning over his White House records to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
The committee is set to receive the first batch of documents, which lawmakers say is key to their investigation, on Friday. In papers filed with the appeals court Thursday, lawyers for Trump asked the court to temporarily delay the turnover and “maintain the status quo” while they push ahead with an expedited appeal.
Trump has tried to claim executive privilege over the documents, and contends the records should be kept secret “in perpetuity.”
President Joe Biden has disagreed, and said the National Archives should release the records.
White House counsel Dana Remus told the National Archives in a letter obtained by NBC News that the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol was “the most serious attack on the operations of the Federal government since the Civil War,” and that Trump’s efforts to keep Congress in the dark about what happened “is not in the best interests of the United States.”
“Accordingly, President Biden does not uphold the former President’s assertion of privilege,” Remus wrote.
Judge Tanya Chutkan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied a similar request from Trump’s team to “maintain the status quo” earlier this week, noting that that “the status quo in this case” is that the National Archives will disclose the documents on Nov. 12 “absent any intervening court order.”
Her ruling was one of a trio she issued this past week refusing Trump’s demand his records be kept secret.
“At bottom, this is a dispute between a former and incumbent President. And the Supreme Court has already made clear that in such circumstances, the incumbent’s view is accorded greater weight,” she wrote in a separate 39-page ruling.
“Plaintiff does not acknowledge the deference owed to the incumbent President’s judgment. His position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity,’” she wrote. “But Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.”
Trump has also argued that certain witnesses who’ve been subpoenaed by the committee should not have to answer questions because of executive privilege as well. One of them, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, is the subject of a criminal referral to the Justice Department for refusing to cooperate at all.
In a statement on Thursday, a lawyer for former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows suggested his client would challenge the committee’s requests as well.
“Contrary to decades of consistent bipartisan opinions from the Justice Department that senior aides cannot be compelled by Congress to give testimony, this is the first President to make no effort whatsoever to protect presidential communications from being the subject of compelled testimony,” attorney George Terwilliger said. “Mr. Meadows remains under the instructions of former President Trump to respect longstanding principles of executive privilege. It now appears the courts will have to resolve this conflict.”