Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit on Oct. 18 in a Washington court against the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol incident and also the National Archives in a bid to keep his presidential records classified, citing executive privilege.
Trump’s court filing argues (pdf) that the committee’s records request is too broad and doesn’t serve any legislative purpose.
“The Committee’s request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by [President Joe] Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration,” the lawsuit reads. “Our laws do not permit such an impulsive, egregious action against a former President and his close advisors.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), one of the chairs of the House select committee, and the national archivist, David Ferriero, were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
“In cases like this, where a committee has declined to grant sufficient time to conduct a full review, there is a longstanding bipartisan tradition of protective assertions of executive privilege designed to ensure the ability of the Executive to make a final assertion, if necessary, over some or all of the requested material,” the lawsuit reads.
The Presidential Records Act is unconstitutional should it be “read so broadly as to allow an incumbent President unfettered discretion to waive the previous President’s executive privilege, mere months following an administration change,” according to the lawsuit. The committee is seeking potentially millions of presidential records, including presidential conversations and communications with lawyers.
The lawsuit was filed by Jesse Binnall, who had represented Trump in a Nevada election-related lawsuit filed in 2020.
Subpoenas for documents and testimony were issued by the Jan. 6 committee against several former Trump administration aides. Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon publicly vowed to not comply with congressional demands.
After Bannon’s comment, Biden said the Department of Justice should prosecute him if he continues to defy the subpoenas. However, a Justice Department spokesman rebuked his claim, saying it will “make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop.”
The lawsuit comes days after White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the Biden administration wouldn’t allow Trump to assert executive privilege to block the request from the House committee.
“The president has determined an assertion of executive privilege isn’t warranted for the first set of documents from the Trump White House that have been provided to us by the National Archives,” Psaki said on Oct. 8, stating that more troves of documents could be evaluated on a “case-by-case basis.”
The National Archives is reportedly scheduled to hand over the Trump administration documents in November.