Trump warns of ‘new weapon’ from Jan. 6 panel records request

'It is naïve to assume that the fallout will be limited to President Trump or the events of January 6, 2021,' Trump’s attorneys wrote in a brief

Supporters of then-President Donald Trump stand on a U.S. Capitol Police armored vehicle as others take over the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Supporters of then-President Donald Trump stand on a U.S. Capitol Police armored vehicle as others take over the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted November 16, 2021 at 2:07pm

Donald Trump’s lawyers cautioned a federal appeals court Tuesday that the court would unleash a “new weapon” for lawmakers to harass political rivals if it rules a House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack is handed some White House records.

The former president filed the brief as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit quickly considers whether a lower court judge got it right when she declined to block the release of records to the panel from the National Archives and Records Administration.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington ruled last week that the House had the power to get the records, even if the request was broad. And she contended the sitting president gives the final word on whether any records should be protected under executive privilege – not a former president or court.

Trump’s lawyers wrote Tuesday that upholding that ruling would have “enormous consequences” and forever change the dynamic between government branches.

“It is naïve to assume that the fallout will be limited to President Trump or the events of January 6, 2021,” Trump’s attorneys wrote. “Every Congress will point to some unprecedented thing about ‘this President’ to justify a request for his presidential records.”

“In these hyper-partisan times, Congress will increasingly and inevitably use this new weapon to perpetually harass its political rival,” Trump’s brief states.

At this early point in the legal fight, when it comes to getting an injunction to stop the production of records, Trump needs to convince the appeals court he is likely to win the lawsuit. The Archives had been set to give the first batch of records to the House on Nov. 12, absent a court order.

A three-judge panel paused the disclosure of records and set oral argument for Nov. 30, an expedited timeline that heightens expectations the panel also will rule quickly after that.

Trump's camp argues former presidents still can still assert executive privilege over documents. And his brief also contends that House Democrats created the Jan. 6 panel to “effectively intimidate and harass President Trump and his closest advisors under the guise of investigating the events of January 6, 2021.”

The House Jan. 6 panel requested records related to dozens of people who were both in and out of the Trump administration. That includes Trump and his family members, as well as “any documents and communications involving White House personnel and any Member of Congress” related to the Jan. 6 attack or the validity of the presidential election.

The House panel has a Nov. 22 deadline by which to file its brief in the case.

At a previous hearing in the case, House General Counsel Doug Letter said the committee, in part, wants to know how much of an effort to discredit the results of the 2020 election came from inside the White House, or from members of Congress, or from outside groups such as the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group.

Trump argues in the brief filed Tuesday that the House panel has no legislative purpose for obtaining the records that his camp argues are protected by “numerous legal privileges”– and that blocking the release of records as his lawsuit moves forward will allow the courts to consider important constitutional issues.

“The disagreement between an incumbent President and his predecessor from a rival political party highlights the importance of executive privilege and the ability of presidents and their advisors to reliably make and receive full and frank advice, without concern that communications will be publicly released to meet a political objective,” Trump’s brief states.