Politics

Trump sues House January 6 committee in attempt to block release of documents

Former President Trump on Monday filed a civil lawsuit against the House January 6 committee in an effort to block the release of documents related to his actions on that day. 

In the filing, Mr. Trump referred to the committee’s investigation as an “illegal fishing expedition.” 

President Biden last week rejected Mr. Trump’s assertion of executive privilege for the documents requested by the committee, and the White House said it would give the panel access to federal records connected to the Trump White House and the January 6 insurrection. 

“The former President’s clear objective is to stop the Select Committee from getting to the facts about January 6th and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe. Precedent and law are on our side,” Representatives Liz Cheney and Bennie Thompson, who chair the January 6 committee, said in a statement Monday night.

“The Select Committee’s authority to seek these records is clear,” the statement continued. “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.”

The lawsuit comes on the eve of the committee’s voting on whether to hold Mr. Trump’s senior adviser Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for defying a subpoena to appear. On Monday night, the committee released the resolution asking for Bannon to be held in criminal contempt, saying documents and testimony for Bannon are “critical to the select committee’s investigation.”

If the committee votes in favor of holding Bannon in criminal contempt, the whole House will vote on it. If a majority of the House votes to do so, it will send a criminal contempt referral to the U.S. attorney.   

The resolution also said the reason Bannon’s lawyer has given for his failure to comply with the committee’s subpoena — executive privilege —  would not apply here and has not even been invoked via communication with the select committee. 

Mr. Trump’s lawsuit names the committee chair Bennie Thompson, the entire committee, the National Archives and David Ferriero, the director of the National Archives. The suit accuses the committee of sending an “an illegal, unfounded, and overbroad records request” to the National Archivist, and says the records are protected by “numerous legal privileges.”

The lawsuit cites several of the requests of the committee, including its request for “all documents and communications related to prepared public remarks and actual public remarks of Donald Trump” between November 3, 2020, and January 20, 2021. 

“Issued public statements are one thing, but the notion that Congress is somehow entitled to ask for and review any and all private conversations, remarks, or drafts of public statements considered by the President of the United States and his close advisors, without limitations on (among other things) subject matter, would destroy the very fabric of our constitutional separation of powers and invade fundamental privileges designed to maintain the autonomy and functioning of the Executive Branch,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also takes issue with the request for for “[a]ll documents and communications within the White House on January 6, 2021 relating in any way to” the president, the vice president, over two dozen of the highest-ranking officials in the federal government and members of Congress. The lawsuit alleges the committee is “no way entitled” to these records. 

On January 6, Mr. Trump spoke at Stop the Steal rally ahead of Congress’ convening to count the electoral votes, a largely ceremonial final step affirming Mr. Biden’s victory. Mr. Trump encouraged his supporters to “walk over” to the Capitol to protest the results of the election. 

Chaos erupted at the Capitol a few hours later as thousands of Mr. Trump’s supporters descended on the Capitol, breaking windows and ransacking the building. Lawmakers, including former Vice President Mike Pence, fled the floor amid the riot, which led to the deaths of five people and the arrests of hundreds more. Mr. Trump was impeached by the House one week later for inciting the riot but was later acquitted by the Senate

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created the House select committee earlier this year to “establish the truth” of what happened that day. Despite the initial attempts to make it a bipartisan committee, Representatives Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, two of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump, are the only two Republicans on the nine-person committee.

In addition to Bannon, the committee has subpoenaed the organizers of the Stop the Steal rally, as well as former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, communications director Dan Scavino and Pentagon chief of staff Kashyap Patel. 

Robert Legare and Zak Hudak contributed to this report.

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