Dec 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Appeals court denies Trump bid to shield records from Jan. 6 panel

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Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

A D.C. appeals court on Thursday denied former President Trump's bid to shield a slew of records to the congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, rejecting Trump's claim that the documents are shielded by executive privilege.

The big picture: In a 3-0 decision, Judge Patricia Ann Millett wrote that lawyers for Trump had not "provided no basis for this court to override President Biden's judgment" that the documents, held by the National Archives, should not be protected by executive privilege.

Between the lines: Trump's team had argued in part that handing over the records would undermine the special privileges, which are aimed at protecting presidents' abilities to have candid conversations with staff and others.

  • Yes, but: "Both Branches agree that there is a unique legislative need for these documents and that they are directly relevant to the Committee’s inquiry into an attack on the Legislative Branch and its constitutional role in the peaceful transfer of power," Millett wrote.

What they're saying:

"We do not come to that conclusion lightly. The confidentiality of presidential communications is critical to the effective functioning of the Presidency for the reasons that former President Trump presses, and his effort to vindicate that interest is itself a right of constitutional import.
"But our Constitution divides, checks, and balances power to preserve democracy and to ensure liberty. For that reason, the executive privilege for presidential communications is a qualified one that Mr. Trump agrees must give way when necessary to protect overriding interests. ... The President and the Legislative Branch have shown a national interest in and pressing need for the prompt disclosure of these documents."

What's next: The court paused the release of the documents for two weeks, giving Trump time to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, which he is likely to do.

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