Trump's Lawyers Head to Court in Jan. 6 Executive Privilege Fight (AP)
By Nick Koutsobinas | Wednesday, 03 November 2021 10:43 PM
A federal judge will hear Thursday, for the first time, arguments on whether lawmakers on the Jan. 6 committee can be granted executive branch records that would detail the whereabouts and who former President Donald Trump talked to in the days leading up to the protest at the Capitol, The Hill reported.
The case weighs unsettled legal questions on the scope of Congress's investigative authority as well as Trump's ability to shield documents from the legislative branch.
President Joe Biden had stated the White House would not assert any privilege claims over the documents, thus allowing the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to hand over scores of documents to lawmakers on the Jan. 6 panel.
But Trump's lawyers are asking a federal judge grant a preliminary injunction that would otherwise block NARA from handing such documents over. They claim the documents are protected under executive privilege.
The lawyers argue the 1978 Presidential Records Act and the Constitution both point toward shielding documents from Congress and the committee due to its lack of legislative purpose.
But the committee argues its purpose, according to The Hill, is a "review of the attack will help determine what is necessary to prevent anything similar from happening again."
A former U.S. attorney, Harry Litman, thinks Trump's strategy in court is to argue the Jan. 6 committee lacks a legislative purpose. And if that does not work, the strategy might be to stall proceedings by having the court review which documents are considered privileged.
"As I read his reply, he's really going for a delay strategy," Litman said. "He's trying to argue that the judge needs to examine each and every document for executive privilege and that would take months."
Trump's lawyers stated in a filing last month that "congressional committees do not have the broad and boundless authority of inquisition; their investigatory powers are confined by their legislative function and the legitimate Constitutional prerogatives of their co-equal branches of government."
"The Committee's request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious fishing expedition designed to unconstitutionally target President Trump and those who served in his administration," they add. "Our laws do not permit such an impulsive action against a former President and his close advisers."
National Archives White House liaison division director John Laster says Trump is trying to withhold more than 700 pages of documents that would detail his movements and conversations throughout the day.
According to the Jan. 6 committee's lawyers, "the Select Committee's request is squarely within its jurisdiction and driven by a clear legislative purpose: to understand the facts and causes surrounding the Jan. 6 attack to develop legislation and other measures that will protect our Nation from a similar assault in the future."