Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Monday against the Jan. 6 select committee and the National Archives as he seeks to block the release of presidential records related to his communications around the insurrection.
In the lawsuit, Trump’s attorney Jesse Binnall argues the committee “has decided to harass President Trump … by sending an illegal, unfounded, and overbroad records request to the Archivist of the United States.”
Binnall also accuses President Joe Biden of engaging in “a political ploy to accommodate his partisan allies” by refusing to block the release of Trump’s records to the Jan. 6 committee.
“The Committee’s request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration. Our laws do not permit such an impulsive, egregious action against a former President and his close advisors,” Binnall writes.
The lawsuit asks that the district court “invalidate the Committee’s requests” and enjoin the National Archives from turning over the records.
“At a bare minimum, the Court should enjoin the Archivist from producing any potentially privileged records until President Trump is able to conduct a full privilege review of all of the requested materials.”
The lawsuit could set up a contentious fight with potentially significant ramifications for both the work of the Jan. 6 committee investigating the Capitol assault and the ability for other former presidents to assert executive privilege over records from their administrations.
Earlier this month, Biden ordered the National Archives to release records identified by the select committee that Trump had sought to classify as privileged communications. In a letter to Archivist David Ferriero, White House counsel Dana Remus said the materials should be handed over within 30 days of notification to Trump, “absent any intervening court order.”
“President Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents,” Remus wrote. “These are unique and extraordinary circumstances. Congress is examining an assault on our Constitution and democratic institutions provoked and fanned by those sworn to protect them, and the conduct under investigation extends far beyond typical deliberations concerning the proper discharge of the President’s constitutional responsibilities.”
While the Supreme Court following the Nixon administration previously ruled that former presidents should have some role in deciding whether their presidential records should be released, that precedent has so far not been tested when a current administration opts to deny the former president’s privilege assertions.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack on Wednesday sent records requests to eight government agencies, seeking records from the Trump White House and administration related to the Capitol Hill riot and efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
The letters, the first investigative steps taken by the panel since its July hearing, suggest the panel is ramping up its far-reaching inquiry that aims to examine efforts in and around the Trump administration to challenge and overturn the election results before, during and after the Jan. 6 attack.
The panel sent requests to the National Archives — which maintains and preserves Trump White House records — the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Interior, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and several intelligence community agencies.
Its 12-page letter to the National Archives also requested records pertaining to more than 30 White House aides, lawyers, Trump family members and outside advisers, along with West Wing communications, records and visitors logs on and around the day of the Capitol riot.
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