Court of Appeals rejects Trump's offer to protect material from Jan.6 inquiry

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that Congress has the right to see White House files related to the Jan.6 attack ...


WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that Congress has the right to see White House files related to the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill, dismissing former President Donald J. Trump’s claim according to which he still had the power to keep the material secret.

In one 68-page decision, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that the oversight powers of Congress, supported by President Biden’s decision not to invoke executive privilege over material, l outweighed Mr. Trump’s residual secrecy powers.

Citing the aphorism attributed to Benjamin Franklin that the founders gave the country a republic “if you can keep it”, Judge Patricia A. Millett wrote that January 6 “exposed the fragility of these democratic institutions and traditions to which we may have made it. take it for granted ”, against which Mr. Trump’s arguments for secrecy were“ not close enough ”.

“Former President Trump provided no basis for this tribunal to overturn President Biden’s judgment and the agreement and accommodations reached between political branches on these documents,” she wrote. “Both branches agree that there is a unique legislative need for these documents and that they are directly relevant to the committee’s investigation into an attack on the legislative branch and its constitutional role in the peaceful transfer of power.”

Justices Millett, Robert L. Wilkins and Ketanji Brown Jackson – the other two judges on the panel – were all appointed by Democratic presidents. Mr. Trump is almost certain to appeal their decision to the Supreme Court, which is controlled by a six-member bloc appointed by Republicans.

The appeal committee had issued a short-term injunction to prevent the National Archives from turning over the documents while it investigated the matter. He said he would leave the injunction in place for two weeks to give the former president’s legal team time to ask the Supreme Court to intervene.

The case raised new and unverified constitutional questions on the scope and limits of a former president’s ability to keep the records of his administration secret when his successor refuses to invoke executive privilege.

The dispute centers on a request for a special House committee investigating the events of January 6, when Mr. Trump led a fiery “Stop the Steal” rally and his supporters then stormed the Capitol in an attempt prevent Congress from certifying President Biden’s electoral college. victory.

Citing a provision of the Presidential Records Act, a post-Watergate law that governs access to old government records, the Jan.6 committee requested detailed accounts of Mr. Trump’s travels and meetings before and on the day of crisis. The National Archives have started to identify batches of sensitive documents with a view to handing them over as they arise.

Mr. Trump, however, objected to the release of some of the early files as a question of executive privilege. After Mr Biden declined to support his objection, saying it was in the national interest for the oversight committee to see the records, Mr Trump filed a complaint to keep the files secret.

A Federal District Court judge – Tanya S. Chutkan, also named Democrat – ruled in November that Congress should receive the cases, prompting Mr. Trump to appeal. Specifically, the question is whether he is so likely to ultimately lose the case that the National Archives should be allowed to hand over the documents immediately, or whether they should remain blocked while the case is fully argued.

Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the January 6 committee, spoke said he wanted to conclude by “early spring”. If this is the case, the committee would need to have access to the files by the end of the winter for the information to form part of a report.

Both on and off, Mr. Trump has pursued a subpoena legal strategy and using the generally slow pace of litigation to exhaust the time spent on congressional oversight efforts.

But at both stages of the case so far, the judges have moved unusually quickly. Judge Chutkan ruled against the former president just over three weeks after he filed the complaint, and the appeals court panel ruled against him less than a month after his appeal was recorded. .

In response to the attack, Mr. Biden and Congress “each decided that access to this subset of presidential communications materials is necessary to address an issue of great constitutional moment for the Republic,” wrote Justice Millett. “Former President Trump gave this court no legal reason to reject President Biden’s assessment of the executive branch’s vested interests or to create a separation of powers conflict that political powers have avoided.”

The courts have questioned what general rule or legal test should govern not only this dispute, but also any future dispute in which a sitting president and an elder disagree on whether to invoke executive privilege over specific documents.

Mr Trump’s legal team argued that the disclosure of the files would harm the executive by making presidents’ advisers fearful of giving candid advice, lest it be exposed. But Mr Biden, through his White House attorney, decided it was in the national interest for the Jan.6 committee to shed light on what happened so it didn’t happen again. Never again.

Noting that many presidents – including Mr. Trump – have waived executive privilege from time to time, Judge Millett wrote that Mr. Biden was in the best position to weigh the general principle of confidentiality against competing needs and interests involving the government. executive power.

“Sir. Trump did not make any recording or even suggest to this tribunal what background or what information was overlooked or what information might override President Biden’s calculation,” she wrote. neither can we just assume it, nor can we on our own search the documents for sensitivities or concerns that were never expressed by Mr. Trump.

President Nancy Pelosi applauded the decision. “Today, the courts have once again rejected the former president’s campaign to obstruct congressional investigation into the January 6 insurgency,” she said in a statement. “No one can be allowed to oppose the truth – especially not the previous president, who incited the insurgency.”

Jesse R. Binnall, an attorney for Mr. Trump in the case, did not respond to a request for comment.

The decision came as the House committee investigating the attack on Capitol Hill said it would vote on Monday to recommend that Marc des meadows, Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, was found guilty of criminal contempt of Congress for defying his subpoena.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the second House Democrat, said the chamber could vote to send the contempt referral to the Justice Department as early as Tuesday.

Mr Meadows has brought suit against the committee seeking to persuade a federal judge to block his subpoenas, which he called “too broad and unduly onerous”.

The panel interviewed nearly 300 witnesses, including four on Thursday, but voted twice to find Mr. Trump’s uncooperative allies in contempt.

Witnesses interviewed Thursday at a random federal office building in Washington included Ali Alexander, a leading organizer of the “Stop the Steal” rallies who has ties to far-right members of Congress, and Kash Patel, a former Pentagon chief of staff who has been involved in talks about Capitol Hill security and was in constant contact with Mr. Meadows on January 6.

After completing his testimony, Patel said he shared the “Defense Ministry’s” preparation and response to the unrest on Capitol Hill.

“Although I had great concerns about the fairness of the proceedings,” he said in a statement, “I appeared to answer questions to the best of my ability.”

Luke broadwater contributed to Washington reporting.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Court of Appeals rejects Trump's offer to protect material from Jan.6 inquiry
Court of Appeals rejects Trump's offer to protect material from Jan.6 inquiry
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