The National Archives indicated that many files were drawn from the systems of key Trump aides including former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, adviser Stephen Miller and deputy counsel Patrick Philbin.
Other documents include “draft text of a presidential speech for the January 6, 2021, Save America March; a handwritten list of potential or scheduled briefings and telephone calls concerning election issues; and a draft Executive Order concerning election integrity … a draft proclamation honoring deceased Capitol Police officers Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, and associated e-mails from the Office of the Executive Clerk, which relate to the Select Committee’s interest in the White House’s response to the Capitol attack.”
“These records all relate to the events on or about January 6, and may assist the Select Committee’s investigation into that day, including what was occurring at the White House immediately before, during and after the January 6 attack,” Justice Department attorneys, acting on behalf of Archivist David Ferriero, wrote in the filing.
The documents have been unearthed in four distinct tranches identified by the National Archives since the Jan. 6 select committee requested them in late August. Trump sued to block release on Oct. 15 and has asked a federal judge to issue an emergency order blocking the National Archives from transmitting them to the committee.
The National Archives submitted its filing in response to Trump’s lawsuit seeking an emergency court order to block Ferriero from transmitting them to Congress. Trump has claimed that disclosing the documents would destroy executive privilege and present an unprecedented incursion on the executive branch.
But the archives rejected Trump’s legal arguments, emphasizing that the Jan. 6 committee’s requests were tailored specifically to its investigation, and that President Joe Biden had already made the “manifestly reasonable” decision to reject Trump’s claims of privilege.
“Even assuming the applicability of executive privilege, however, the documents may assist the Select Committee in understanding efforts to communicate with the American public, including those who attacked the Capitol on January 6, on the subjects of alleged voter fraud, election security, and other topics concerning the 2020 election,” according to the filing.
Trump’s effort to suppress more than 750 pages of records is far broader than previously known, and includes documents from three separate tranches identified by the National Archives since early October in response to a request from the Jan. 6 select committee.
In its own filing, the Jan. 6 select committee says a federal court must reject Trump’s effort to stymie its investigation or risk leaving future elections subject to abuse.
The panel argues that Trump and his allies’ continuing effort to undermine confidence in federal elections reinforces the committee’s need to access Trump’s White House records to understand his attempt to overturn the 2020 election results.
“The urgency of the work cannot be overstated,” House Counsel Doug Letter writes in the 52-page legal brief delivered Friday night to Judge Tanya Chutkan. “The threat that brought the attack on January 6 is ongoing. Those who falsely claimed the election was stolen (including Mr. Trump) continue to do so.”
Chutkan is slated to hold a hearing on Trump’s bid to block access to his records on Thursday. She’s been among the most outspoken judges on the federal bench in Washington, D.C., to call the Jan. 6 attack a fundamental assault on democracy — driven by rioters loyal to Trump. In the chaos that day, multiple rioters died, and more than 140 police officers were injured.
Ferriero has indicated he intends to turn over a first tranche of documents by Nov. 12 unless a court orders otherwise.
In his lawsuit, Trump argues that the committee’s effort to investigate the attack is political, and efforts to obtain his documents would erode all future presidents’ ability to have candid conversations with advisers and allies.
But in its new filing, the committee sharply rejects these claims, noting that Biden had already judged the inquiry to be meritorious and that Trump’s unique role promoting false claims about the election warrants an intensive recounting of his actions.
“Mr. Trump is—as of now—a case of one,” the committee argues. “He is—as of now—the only failed Presidential candidate not to concede, to spend months spreading lies about the election, to encourage a self-coup that would illegally keep him in office, or to inspire a mob to attack the Capitol. There is no one more important to study to determine how legislation can prevent the repetition of such acts.”
Moreover, the committee says that if Trump’s lawsuit were to succeed, it could doom efforts to fully understand what occurred on Jan. 6 and “to prevent a similar future assault on American democracy.”
Throughout its filing, the committee emphasizes that Biden is in agreement with lawmakers about the urgency of its probe. And it cites Nixon-era precedent to note that the Supreme Court has determined former presidents have less legal authority to demand confidentiality of Executive Branch records.
Importantly, it argues, this is the first time a sitting president has opposed a privilege assertion lodged by a former president. Biden’s claim should win out, it argues, because courts have ruled the current president has a better perspective on how to protect Executive Branch interests.
“As President Biden has determined, any burden on the Office of the President is vastly outweighed by the Select Committee’s pressing need for the information to pass legislation of vital importance to our democracy,” the committee writes.
Biden has repeatedly declined to assert executive privilege over records sought by the Jan. 6 committee, but the panel postponed a request for about 50 pages identified by the National Archives as relevant. Committee members indicated the decision was intended to avoid a potentially lengthy delay over potential privilege concerns.
The Jan. 6 committee also rejected Trump’s claim that a Supreme court ruling in a separate case — a 2019 attempt by the House to obtain his financial records — should shut down the committee’s demand for his White House papers. That ruling, the committee said, only dealt with personal papers of a sitting president — not the official records of a former president.
Trump also argued that the committee’s need for his documents was minimal and the panel could pursue its legislative objectives without obtaining records he deems privileged. But the committee described that notion as “absurd.”
“The lengthy public record of Mr. Trump’s statements and actions … provides an abundant basis to seek the nonpublic records of the person whom the attackers sought to maintain in the White House,” the committee writes. “Any inquiry that did not insist on examining Mr. Trump’s documents and communications would be worse than useless—the equivalent of staging a production of ‘Hamlet’ without the Prince of Denmark.”