The US Supreme Court on Wednesday dealt a final blow to former President Donald Trump when it rejected his bid to block the release of some presidential records to the House select committee investigating the deadly Capitol riot.
The ruling clears the way for the committee to receive four tranches of presidential records from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Trump asserted executive privilege over the documents when the committee initially requested them. But the Biden White House declined to do the same, saying in October that it was “not in the best interests of the United States,” and authorized the National Archives to turn over the materials to Congress.
Trump filed a lawsuit in response, setting up the first constitutional showdown testing whether a sitting president has the right to overrule their predecessor’s assertion of executive privilege.
A federal judge rejected Trump’s request in November, saying in a lengthy ruling that while Trump has the right to assert privilege, Biden is not required to honor it. The US Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, affirmed the lower court’s ruling in a blistering 68-page opinion written by Judge Patricia Millett.
“Benjamin Franklin said, at the founding, that we have ‘[a] Republic’—’if [we] can keep it.’ The events of January 6th exposed the fragility of those democratic institutions and traditions that we had perhaps come to take for granted,” Millett wrote.
She added that in response, both the incumbent president and Congress determined that “access to this subset of presidential communication records is necessary to address a matter of great constitutional moment for the Republic.”
“Former President Trump has given this court no legal reason to cast aside President Biden’s assessment of the Executive Branch interests at stake, or to create a separation of powers conflict that the Political Branches have avoided,” the ruling said.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone public dissent in Wednesday’s order rejecting Trump’s request to overturn the appeals court ruling and block the January 6 committee from accessing the relevant records.
However, the justices noted that their order does not answer questions regarding a former president’s ability to assert executive privilege, adding that such questions are “unprecedented” and “raise serious and substantial concerns.”
“Because the Court of Appeals concluded that President Trump’s claims would have failed even if he were the incumbent, his status as a former President necessarily made no difference to the court’s decision,” the Supreme Court order said.