- The Supreme Court denied Trump’s request to review the Jan. 6 committee’s bid for White House records.
- It had previously declined to block the National Archives from turning over documents to the panel.
- The agency recovered 15 boxes of documents from Trump’s residence; some had classified information.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday officially denied former President Donald Trump’s request to review the January 6 select committee’s bid for White House records.
The decision was widely expected after the high court last month declined Trump’s request to block the National Archives and Records Administration from turning over tranches of executive-branch documents to the congressional committee investigating the January 6 riot.
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 it 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 had the right to assert the privilege, President Joe Biden was 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.
She added that both the incumbent president and Congress had 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.
The Supreme Court’s January order specifically left unaddressed some key questions, including to what extent a former president can shield their documents from public release. The court described these issues as “unprecedented” and said they “raise serious and significant concerns.”
The House select committee investigating the January 6 riot received the more than 700 pages of White House records last month, which the panel said was relevant to its probe. The documents include White House visitor logs, Trump’s daily schedule, call records, and handwritten notes from Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows about January 6, according to the National Archives.
In the weeks after the Supreme Court declined to block the archives from turning over documents to the January 6 select committee, it surfaced that Trump had taken about 15 boxes of White House documents to his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.
NARA said in a letter to lawmakers on Friday that it had communicated with Trump advisors about the materials last year, that it received the 15 boxes last month, and that it was still inventorying the contents. The records Trump belatedly turned over reportedly included documents related to some of his most infamous moments, like “Sharpiegate,” when he showed a doctored map of Hurricane Dorian’s path in 2019.
The agency said that, among other things, it recently learned that some of the boxes Trump took with him contained classified national-security information.
NARA recently asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Trump violated federal law by taking documents with him to Mar-a-Lago that should have been turned over to the archives at the end of his presidency.
Legal experts have said that Trump’s actions may have violated the Presidential Records Act, which requires presidents and White House staff to preserve official documents and communications and turn those items over to the archives at the end of a president’s term.
The January 6 committee’s request for Trump’s records comes as lawmakers try to piece together Trump’s movements and actions on the day of the Capitol riot. Rep. Liz Cheney, the top Republican on the panel, has suggested that Trump’s failure to immediately condemn rioters amounts to a dereliction of duty.
Several figures in the Trump White House have also not cooperated with the committee’s probe. The House voted to hold Meadows and one-time White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress after they defied subpoenas from the committee. Bannon in November pleaded not guilty to two counts of contempt of Congress.
More recently, the panel has requested information from former White House trade advisor Peter Navarro, who pointed to Trump’s claim of executive privilege. Last month, the committee reached out for information from Trump’s former senior advisor and daughter Ivanka Trump, whose spokesperson did not directly respond to the committee’s request.