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Former Congress members file brief opposing Trump’s attempt to shield Jan. 6 records

A bipartisan group of 66 former members of Congress filed a brief Thursday night urging the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss a lawsuit from former president Donald Trump that seeks to block the release of records connected to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters.

Earlier this month, Trump filed a lawsuit against the House committee investigating the insurrection and the National Archives in an attempt to stop the committee from receiving records into the events of that day as well as his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

In his filing, Trump and his attorneys argue that the records requests are too broad and have no legislative purpose, saying the committee’s actions undermined the Constitution, and that the committee isn’t giving Trump’s team enough time to review the records requests.

The House select committee investigating the attempted insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 faces an uphill battle with former Trump administration officials. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

The lawsuit is currently before Judge Tanya Chutkan of the D.C. District Court. The Jan. 6 committee has until Friday before midnight to file a response to the lawsuit, since Chutkan has set a hearing for Nov. 4 on the issue. It is up to her when to rule on the Trump lawsuit, but the committee’s subpoenas have a Nov. 12 deadline.

In their amicus brief, the bipartisan group of retired lawmakers urges the D.C. court to deny Trump’s request for a preliminary injunction so that the committee can continue its investigation. They argue that the Jan. 6 insurrection was the real attack on democracy and the Constitution, “not the document requests necessary to investigate such an armed attack on our democracy.”

The former lawmakers — 22 Republicans and 44 Democrats — also dismiss Trump’s argument that the committee’s work serves no legislative purpose by 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.”

“It is vital that Congress have the ability to exercise those constitutional authorities now before the lives of Senators, Representatives, and the Vice President of the United States — along with their staffs and the law enforcement officers charged with protecting the Capitol and its inhabitants — are ever again threatened or the peaceful transfer of power is again imperiled,” they state in the brief.

While most of the signatories served in Congress before the Trump administration, several Republicans listed, including Reid J. Ribble (Wis.), Charles W. Boustany Jr. (La.), and Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), were in Congress between 2016 and 2019 and have, since then, been openly critical of the former president and the actions of Jan. 6.

“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. “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.”

In the brief, the signers say it is clear that Trump “played an outsized — and likely central — role in orchestrating the events that led to the January 6 attack.”

“The various means he used or contemplated are likely documented in the records the Committee seeks and are still not known,” they write. “If traitors bent on disrupting and damaging our government were to meticulously plan and nearly succeed in flying a jumbo jet into the White House, we would not expect Congress to implement stronger safeguards without the opportunity to investigate the attackers. And we certainly would not expect Congress to sit on its hands when it comes to such an important matter of national security.”