Politics

A Significant Portion of Trump’s Wall of Secrecy Could Topple Today: DC Circuit Hears Executive Privilege Appeal

The House Select Committee appears today in front of three judges from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to argue against Trump’s blanket assertion of executive privilege pertaining to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pages of documents sought by the Committee. Trump asserts that Congress has no right to inspect his administration’s emails, schedules, draft speeches, visitor logs, phone logs, handwritten notes, all legally required to be kept as property of the United States Government and not the personal property of the people who created such documents.

Despite the fact that Trump has long been known to despise “note-taking” and electronic messages of any type (Roy Cohn really was his lawyer at one point), the Committee could find almost anything in the sought-after records. Whatever might be in the collection, Trump desperately wants to keep the entirety of the batch from Congress and the public.

According to Politico:

All three judges on the panel were appointed by Democratic presidents. Jackson is Biden’s only appointment so far to the powerful D.C. circuit court, while Millett and Wilkins were appointed by Obama.

If the panel agrees with Chutkan’s decision, it could deal a fatal blow to Trump’s push to maintain the secrecy of his pre-Jan. 6 maneuvers. Though he would likely appeal to the full bench of the appeals court or to the Supreme Court, a ruling against him is bound to spark an urgent race by the committee to obtain the documents and fight any efforts to stay the ruling during an appeal.

Most legal experts expect the SCOTUS to refuse to hear the case. There has long been an “understanding” between Congress and the Executive branch that the vast majority of these fights be dealt with behind closed doors in some kind of mutual agreement and generally try to avoid court rulings precisely because both sides fear whatever case law may emerge from the courts.

Thus, today represents one of the greatest threats to Trump’s obsession with secrecy. Throughout his business life, his television stint, and then as president, Trump has emphasized his need for two things, loyalty, and secrecy, two characteristics that often overlap. Perhaps no individual citizen has ever required more signatures on non-disclosure agreements. From the outside, it appears that Trump believes he cannot operate in business or in government without complete secrecy.

Today, a gigantic portion of that fortress of secrecy could be toppled (though the court may not release its ruling today). No one, not even Trump himself, knows the entirety of what might be on the other side. It is possible that there exist materials that would change everything with respect to whether or not a former president would be investigated and prosecuted by the Justice Department.

Trump will certainly be on the phone with his attorneys immediately after the hearing. Meanwhile, attorneys for the Select Committee, media organizations, and Americans, generally, will be anxiously awaiting a ruling.

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