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Appeals Court to Weigh Trump arguments to withhold records

November 30, 2021

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers will try to persuade a federal appeals court to stop Congress from receiving call logs, drafts of speeches and other documents related to the Jan 6 insurrection at the US Capitol led by his supporters.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear arguments Tuesday from lawyers for Trump and the House committee seeking the records as part of its investigation into the riot.

Trump’s attorneys want the court to reverse a federal judge’s ruling allowing the National Archives and Records Administration to turn over the records after President Joe Biden waived executive privilege. Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Trump’s claims that he could exert executive privilege overriding Biden, noting in part, “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not president.” The appeals court issued an administrative stay after Chutkan’s ruling to review the case.

Democratic presidents nominated all three judges who will hear arguments Tuesday. Patricia Millett and Robert Wilkins were nominated by President Barack Obama, and Ketanji Brown Jackson is a Biden appointee.

Given the stakes of the case, either side is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In their appeal to the circuit court, Trump’s lawyers said they agreed with Chutkan that presidents were not kings. “True, but in that same vein, Congress is not Parliament — a legislative body with supreme and unchecked constitutional power over the operations of government,” they wrote.

Trump has argued that records of his deliberations on Jan. 6 must be withheld to protect executive privilege for future presidents and that the Democrat-led House is primarily driven by politics. The House committee’s lawyers rejected those arguments and called Trump’s attempts to assert executive privilege “unprecedented and deeply flawed.”

“It is difficult to imagine a more critical subject for Congressional investigation, and Mr. Trump’s arguments cannot overcome Congress’s pressing need,” the committee’s lawyers said.

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