The US Supreme Court refused to block the release of a trove of documents that former President Donald Trump fought to keep from a congressional committee investigating the 2021 Capitol riot.
The Wednesday order from the highest court in the land paved the way for members of the House of Representatives’ Jan. 6 select committee to get their hands on records like presidential diaries, visitor logs, drafts of speeches and other records held by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Trump’s attorneys wanted to hold back the records from the committee and continue a legal battle over the limits of executive privilege to block disclosure of certain communications. Trump’s legal team tried to stop the documents from being released even though current President Joe Biden had already waived executive privilege on many White House records sought by the committee.
The Supreme Court declined to reverse lower court rulings, although the justices said in the opinion that there were legitimate questions about the legal limits of executive privilege.
“The questions whether and in what circumstances a former President may obtain a court order preventing disclosure of privileged records from his tenure in office, in the face of a determination by the incumbent President to waive that privilege, are unprecedented and raise serious questions and substantial concerns,” the order said.
But a federal Court of Appeals found Trump’s claims would have failed even if he had been the incumbent so the Republican’s “status as a former President necessarily made no difference to the court’s decision,” the Supreme Court order said.
Justice Clarence Thomas would have granted the application, the order said. And Justice Brett Kavanaugh was the sole member of the court to include a statement in the ruling, saying he believed executive privilege did not expire when a president leaves office – although he added that the protection likely has limits.
“To be clear, to say that a former President can invoke the privilege for Presidential communications that occurred during his Presidency does not mean that the privilege is absolute or cannot be overcome,” Kavanaugh wrote.
The House select committee was formed to investigate the riot, which broke out as a pro-Trump crowd stormed the Capitol and disrupted Congress’ certification of Biden’s election win in the 2020 presidential election.
The Supreme Court decision this week came one day after the Democratic-run committee announced it had subpoenaed four Trump attorneys and advisers, including lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City. The committee also reportedly received some phone records connected to Trump’s son Eric and Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr.’s fiancée, according to a CNN report Tuesday.
With Post wires