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Trump asks Supreme Court to block release to Capitol riot probe

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Supporters of former president Donald Trump storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021./AFP
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Dec 24, 2021 - 07:50 AM

WASHINGTON — Former US president Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to block the release of White House records to a congressional committee investigating the January 6 assault on the Capitol by his supporters.

Trump asked the nation’s highest court to stay a ruling this month by a federal appeals court which rejected his attempt to keep the documents and records secret.

Trump, who has been accused of fomenting the assault on Congress, is seeking to exercise his privilege as a former president to keep White House records that might relate to the attack under wraps.

The appeals court agreed with a lower court this month that ruled that President Joe Biden could waive executive privilege on the records so they could be handed over to the panel investigating the violence by Trump supporters.

In a filing with the Supreme Court, Trump’s lawyers argued that “a former president has the right to assert executive privilege, even after his term of office.”

They condemned the congressional records request as “strikingly broad” and accused the committee in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives of conducting an investigation of a “political foe.”

“Congress may not rifle through the confidential, presidential papers of a former President to meet political objectives,” Trump’s lawyers said.

“In an increasingly partisan political climate, such records requests will become the norm regardless of what party is in power,” they said.

Trump’s lawyers defended executive privilege, saying it affects “the ability of presidents and their advisers to reliably make and receive full and frank advice, without concern that communications will be publicly released to meet a political objective.”

The US Court of Appeals agreed to delay the release of the White House records until lawyers for the former Republican president could file their appeal to the Supreme Court.

Trump’s lawyers asked the conservative majority Supreme Court to schedule a hearing on whether the probe request is constitutional and to block release of the documents in the meantime.

Public interest 

In its ruling, the appeals court said “the right of a former president certainly enjoys no greater weight than that of the incumbent.”

“In this case, President Biden, as the head of the Executive Branch, has specifically found that Congress has demonstrated a compelling need for these very documents and that disclosure is in the best interests of the nation,” the court said.

The appeals court said the public interest was greater than Trump’s own in relation to the records, which are held by the National Archives.

The records are being sought by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attempt by hundreds of Trump supporters to block certification of Biden’s November 2020 election victory.

Documents that Trump hopes to block include emails, phone records, briefing materials and other records.

The more than 770 pages include records of his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, his former senior advisor Stephen Miller and his former deputy counsel Patrick Philbin.

Trump has also sought to block the release of the White House Daily Diary — a record of his activities, trips, briefings and phone calls.

Another trove of documents Trump does not want Congress to see includes memos to his former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, a handwritten note on the January 6 events and a draft text of his speech at the “Save America” rally, which preceded the attack.

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