Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to halt the transfer of documents from his final days in office to the House select committee investigating the breach of the U.S. Capitol building in January.
Current President Joe Biden formally rejected Trump’s claims of executive privilege last week, setting into motion the planned transfer from the National Archives to the January 6 commission of documents and communications from Trump, when he was still president, that are related to the attack.
“The President maintains his conclusion that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States,” a letter from White House counsel Dana Remus to Archivist of the United States David Ferriero stated. Remus added that “absent any intervening court order,” the White House expected the documents and communication logs from the former president to be given to the commission within 30 days.
However, Trump filed a lawsuit on Monday seeking to have the courts prevent the January 6 commission from seeing his White House documents related to the breach of the Capitol that happened after an incendiary speech he gave to a mob of his loyalists. He listed the commission and the National Archives as defendants in his brief.
“The Committee’s request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration,” Trump claims in the filing. “Our laws do not permit such an impulsive, egregious action against a former president and his close advisors.”
The commission is trying to “harass President Trump and senior members of his administration (among others) by sending an illegal, unfounded, and overbroad records request to the Archivist,” according to the filing.
Trump’s office also put out a statement claiming that the commission’s attempt to obtain his records is illegal, arguing that it doesn’t serve a legislative process, like writing a bill or developing future policies. But legal scholars dismissed Trump’s lawsuit as baseless, noting that it had many flawed arguments.
“Trump’s suit is riddled with groundless assertions, starts and ends by treating Trump as though he were still POTUS, belittles Congress’s obvious need to enact laws strong enough to prevent a coup and an insurrection, and invokes inapplicable privileges,” Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe wrote on Twitter.
Members of the January 6 commission also noted that Trump’s lawsuit lacks reasonable arguments and may just be a delay tactic, with the former president hopeful that he can prevent documents reaching the select committee before the midterm elections next year.
“Precedent and law are on our side,” a statement from the commission’s co-chairs, Representatives Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), said. “We’ll fight the former president’s attempt to obstruct our investigation while we continue to push ahead successfully with our probe on a number of other fronts.”
Trump’s lawsuit is “nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe,” the co-chairs added.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), another member of the commission, appeared on CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Monday night, echoing Thompson’s and Cheney’s position.
Trump is using the courts “to delay, try to prevent the country from learning about his corruption,” Schiff said. “Donald Trump will lose this litigation, and he knows he’ll lose the litigation. The point isn’t winning, the point is delaying.”