Supreme Court Denies Trump Request to Withhold White House Documents From Jan. 6 Select Committee

Supreme Court Denies Trump Request to Withhold White House Documents From Jan. 6 Select Committee
President Donald Trump greets the crowd at the "Stop The Steal" Rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Matthew Vadum

The Supreme Court on Feb. 22 put an end to former President Donald Trump’s legal fight to withhold documents from his White House tenure that he claimed were protected by executive privilege from Democrats in Congress investigating the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Executive privilege has been invoked by presidents to block access to internal White House documents on the theory that public disclosure of such documents isn’t in the best interests of the nation. If advisers aren’t free to speak their mind in discussing affairs of state with the president because they know internal deliberations will at some point be made public, the nation will suffer, the reasoning goes.

House Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were elated at the ruling.

“Today, the Supreme Court made resoundingly clear that no one is above the law—not even a former president who incited a deadly insurrection,” she said in a statement.

“By again rejecting the former president’s attempts to hide documents related to January 6th, the court’s decision is a victory for the truth, for the rule of law, and for the American people,” Pelosi said, accusing Trump of engaging in an “unlawful and dangerous campaign to hide the truth from the American people.”

Lower courts rejected Trump’s claim that executive privilege bars access to the documents. The Biden administration also sided with the committee after President Joe Biden, who was inaugurated two weeks after the incident, found that the records of the previous White House weren’t covered by executive privilege.

Pelosi and her colleagues hope the documents in question will shed light on Trump’s actions surrounding the security breach 13 1/2 months ago that delayed formal certification of the 2020 presidential election results for several hours and led to the subsequent arrest and conviction of Trump supporters for various offenses, such as obstructing an official proceeding. The Jan. 6 committee asked for White House visitor logs, telephone records, and written communications between Trump’s advisers.

The events of that day have been characterized by Democrats and some Republicans as an insurrection aimed at overturning the results of the election, in which Joe Biden was ultimately declared the winner of the presidency. While at Trump’s rally more than a mile away, near the opposite end of the National Mall, the then-president urged his supporters to peacefully protest, House Democrats claim that Trump nevertheless played a role in fomenting the violence that took place that day. House investigators demanded documents from the Trump White House that they claim may shed further light on what happened behind the scenes that day.

The case at hand is Trump v. Thompson, court file 21-932. The lead respondent, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), is chairman of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied,” the court stated on Feb. 22, in an unsigned order. According to its usual practice, the court provided no reasons for its decision. No justices dissented from the order.

The rejection of Trump’s claim came after the Supreme Court previously turned down, on a vote of  8–1, a separate emergency application by Trump to withhold White House documents from Thompson’s committee, as The Epoch Times reported on Jan. 19. The lone dissenter in that order (pdf) was Justice Clarence Thomas.
In the current case, Trump filed his petition (pdf) with the Supreme Court on Dec. 23, 2021, describing the committee’s request to be provided many of Trump’s confidential presidential records as “sweeping.” The former president argued that the committee’s demand for documents “implicates important constitutional and statutory concerns arising from the Presidential Records Act, separation of powers, and executive privilege.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Trump’s counsel of record in the legal proceeding, Jesse Ryan Binnall, but received no reply as of press time, while Douglas N. Letter, general counsel to the House of Representatives, declined to comment.

As of press time, the U.S. Department of Justice hadn’t responded to requests for comment.

Zack Stieber and Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this article.