WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court ruled Thursday against an effort by former President Donald Trump to shield documents from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
In a 68-page ruling, the three-judge panel tossed aside Trump’s various arguments for blocking through executive privilege records that the committee regards as vital to its investigation into the run-up to the deadly riot aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Judge Patricia Millett, writing for the court, said Congress had “uniquely vital interests” in studying the events of Jan. 6 and said President Joe Biden had made a “carefully reasoned” determination that the documents were in the public interest and that executive privilege should not be invoked. Trump also failed to show any harm that would occur from the release of the sought-after records Millett wrote.
“On the record before us, former President Trump has 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,” the opinion states.
It adds, “Both Branches agree that there is a unique legislative need for these documents and that they are directly relevant to the Committee’s inquiry into an attack on the Legislative Branch and its constitutional role in the peaceful transfer of power.
The appeals court ruled that the injunction that has prevented the National Archives from turning over the documents will expire in two weeks, or when the Supreme Court rules on an expected appeal from Trump, whichever is later.
The House committee and Trump representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Trump sued the House Jan. 6 committee and the National Archives to stop the White House from allowing the release of documents related to the insurrection. Biden had waived Trump’s executive privilege claims as the current officeholder.
The National Archives has said that the records Trump wants to block include presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts, handwritten notes “concerning the events of January 6” from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows, and “a draft Executive Order on the topic of election integrity.”
Arguing for the committee, U.S. House lawyer Douglas Letter argued that the determination of a current president should outweigh predecessors in almost all circumstances and noted that both Biden and Congress were in agreement that the Jan. 6 records should be turned over.
All three of the appeals court judges who heard the arguments were nominated by Democrats. Millett and Judge Robert Wilkins were nominated by former President Barack Obama. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a Biden appointee seen as a contender for a Supreme Court seat should one open during the current administration.
Eric Tucker and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press