Former president Donald Trump is trying to withhold nearly 800 pages of documents from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to a court filing made Saturday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
According to a sworn declaration from John Laster, director of the White House liaison division at NARA, Trump is trying to assert executive privilege over 46 pages of records from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former senior adviser Stephen Miller, former deputy counsel Patrick Philbin and Brian de Guzman, the former director of White House information services.
Those records include “daily presidential diaries, schedules, appointment information showing visitors to the White House, activity logs, call logs, and switchboard shift-change checklists showing calls” to Trump and former vice president Mike Pence; they also include drafts of speeches about Jan. 6 and three handwritten notes about Jan. 6 from Meadows, the filing stated.
Trump is also trying to exert executive privilege over 656 pages of records from a second batch of files, which include “pages from multiple binders containing proposed talking points” for former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, “presidential activity calendars and a related handwritten note” for Jan. 6, draft text of a presidential speech for the Save America March on Jan. 6, a handwritten note from Meadows listing “potential or scheduled briefings and telephone calls concerning the January 6 certification and other election issues,” and a draft executive order on the topic of election integrity, the filing stated.
From a third batch of records, Trump is seeking to block 68 pages that include a draft proclamation honoring the Capitol Police and officers Brian D. Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, who died after the insurrection; “an email chain originating from a state official regarding election-related issues”; a memo regarding a potential lawsuit against several states Biden won; “talking points on alleged election irregularities in one Michigan county; and a document ordering various actions about election security.
The filing was in response to — and shed more light on — a lawsuit Trump filed this month against the select committee and the National Archives in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking to block the disclosure of records related to his whereabouts, communications and activities that day.
“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,” Trump’s lawsuit stated. “Our laws do not permit such an impulsive, egregious action against a former president and his close advisors.”
Attorneys for both the Department of Justice and the House select committee, which also filed a response this week to Trump’s lawsuit, proposed that the former president’s motion for a preliminary injunction on disclosing these materials be denied. A U.S. district judge has set a hearing on the matter for Nov. 4. The committee’s subpoena has a Nov. 12 deadline to turn over the requested records.
“Mr. Trump’s broad claims of executive privilege are unprecedented and deeply flawed,” lawyers for the House select committee wrote in their filing. “Here, Mr. Trump’s conclusory interest must give way to the Select Committee’s urgent need for the records, as President Biden has likewise determined.”
Exerting additional pressure on Trump, on Thursday, 66 former members of Congress — including 44 Democrats and 22 Republicans — filed a brief opposing Trump’s attempt to shield documents from the Jan. 6 committee, arguing that Congress “has broad legislative powers grounded in multiple constitutional clauses to enact legislation to respond to the heretofore unimagined vulnerabilities in our constitutional system illustrated by last winter’s events.”
“If Congress fails to win this case, then you might as well pack up Congress and let them go home because this is fundamental to our checks and balances and the rule of law in this country,” former congressman Tom Coleman (R-Mo.), an outspoken Trump critic who signed the brief, told The Washington Post on Friday. “I can’t think of a better legislative reason for getting information than to get to the facts and get to the bottom of an insurrection against the United States government.”
For nearly a year, Trump has falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, and the former president has continued to push Republican-led audits of election results and sow doubt in the integrity of elections around the country. There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would have changed the results of the election.
Trump has continued to insist he will exert executive privilege to resist any cooperation with the House select committee, referring to a legal theory that sitting presidents and their aides have invoked to shield themselves from past congressional inquiries. As a former president, however, Trump would need the Biden administration to assert executive privilege. Biden months ago indicated he will probably share with Congress information about Trump’s activities on Jan. 6 if asked.
Earlier this week, White House counsel Dana Remus wrote to NARA, saying Biden had “determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified” for two batches of Jan. 6-related documents under review at the White House.
An attorney for Trump also recently told a group of his former advisers not to comply with their subpoenas from the House select committee, citing “executive and other privileges.” The Jan. 6 committee has since voted to hold former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon in criminal contempt for not complying with its subpoena.
Spencer S. Hsu and Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report.