(Trends Wide) — The Supreme Court cleared the way Wednesday for the release of Trump’s White House presidential files to a congressional commission investigating the January 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol.
The court’s order means that more than 700 documents that could shed light on the events leading up to the insurrection, when hundreds of agitators gathered on Capitol Hill trying to stop the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election, will be transferred to Congress.
Only Justice Clarence Thomas said publicly that he would have acceded to former President Donald Trump’s request to block the delivery of documents from the National Archives to the select committee of the House of Representatives. The other judges did not make their votes public.
The Biden White House supports turning over the records to the commission, determining that disclosure is in the best interest of the nation and declining to exercise executive privilege.
The select commission is demanding more than 700 pages of disputed documents as it explores Trump’s role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election. That includes his appearance at a January 6 rally directing supporters to go to the United States Capitol where legislators were prepared to certify election results and “fight” for their country.
The documents include activity logs, schedules, speech notes and three pages of handwritten notes from then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, papers that could reveal the goings-on inside the West Wing as Trump supporters gathered. They met in Washington and then invaded the Capitol, disrupting the certification of the 2020 vote.
Trump is also trying to keep secret a draft statement honoring two police officers who died in the assault and memos and other documents about alleged voter fraud and efforts to overturn Trump’s loss of the presidency, the Archives say. Nationals in court documents.
The move effectively nullifies Trump’s pending appeal in the case that focused on keeping the documents secret. Trump’s lawyers say the documents are confidential and privileged records.
“The disagreement between a sitting president and his predecessor from a rival political party is novel and underscores the importance of executive privilege and the ability of presidents and their advisers to reliably give and receive full and frank advice, without worry that the communications are made public to serve a political objective,” Trump’s attorney, Jesse R. Binnall, told the justices.
He stressed that Congress had no valid legislative purpose for requesting the documents. “Congress cannot dig into the confidential presidential papers of a former president to further political objectives,” Binnall added.
But the Biden administration argued that withholding the records based on executive privilege is not in the US interest. Attorney General Elizabeth Prelogar said that in light of the “extraordinary events” of January 6, President Joe Biden had decided that the assertion of executive privilege “is not warranted.”
A federal appeals court has ruled against Trump, holding that he “has provided no basis for this court to overturn President Biden’s trial and the agreement and accommodations worked out between the political branches on these documents.”
The court noted that the events “marked the most significant assault on Capitol Hill since the War of 1812” but agreed to freeze its ruling until the Supreme Court issued its decision.
“Under any of the evidence defended by former President Trump, the deep disclosure interests advanced by President Biden and the January 6 Commission far outweigh his pervasive concerns about Executive Branch confidentiality,” the Court panel wrote. United States Appeals to the Washington City Circuit.
This Wednesday, the Supreme Court cited part of that sentence. “Because the Court of Appeals concluded that President Trump’s claims would have failed even if he were the chief executive, his status as a former president did not necessarily make any difference to the court’s decision,” the court said.
“Tonight’s ruling is a major setback for former President Trump in his efforts to block the release of documents from the National Archives to the January 6 commission,” said Steve Vladeck, Trends Wide analyst on the Supreme Court and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “Although the magistrates have not ruled on whether the appeals court correctly rejected their claim, by not blocking delivery, they have allowed that ruling to be the last word.”
Judge Brett Kavanaugh said he agreed with the court’s decision to deny Trump’s request, noting that the order was not based on Trump’s status as a former president.
But in a statement accompanying the court’s ruling, the Trump nominee said he disagreed with an appeals court suggestion that a former president cannot invoke privilege on documents that occurred during his presidency.
“I respectfully disagree with the Court of Appeals on that point,” Kavanaugh said. “A former president must be able to successfully invoke the presidential communications privilege for communications that occurred during his presidency, even if the current president does not support the claim of the privilege,” he said.
Kavanaugh added, however, that saying a former president can invoke the privilege over those communications “does not mean that the privilege is absolute or cannot be overridden.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.
— Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.