D.C. Circuit Rejects Trump Effort to Block Release of Documents to January 6 Committee

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. Circuit denied Donald Trump’s request to a preliminary injunction barring the Archivist from disclosing documents required by the Congressional Committee investigating January 6, 2017 and Trump’s attempt to subordinate the result of the 2020 elections. The Supreme Court will injunct the ex-President. Although such an action might delay further the release of documents I don’t think Trump will prevail.

The court’s 68 page opinion was written by Judge Millett.Trump v. ThompsonJudges Wilkins, Jackson and Jackson joined the court. It was interesting that the court issued this opinion only ten days following the hearing, instead of waiting to publish it in normal procedure tomorrow. (The D.C. Circuit releases generally its opinions on Tuesdays and Friday mornings.

The opinion appears correct on first glance. This is a particularly weak executive privilege claim from the ex-President, considering both the nature of the documents sought and the fact that the current President has concluded that executive privilege doesn’t and shouldn’t bar disclosure of those documents. The congressional interest is stronger than that of the former President in the documents, certainly more so than for his personal financial records.

Below is Judge Millett’s summary of the main issues and court’s conclusion:

This case centers around the question of whether, despite President Biden’s refusal to invoke privilege, and despite other imperative and exceptional circumstances, a Federal Court can overrule the decision by President Biden and block his release
To Congress, any document he holds in his possession that is necessary to conduct a crucial legislative inquiry.

Ex-President Trump does not have any evidence to support this court’s inability to uphold President Biden’s decision and the accommodations and agreements reached between the Political Branches about these documents. They both agree there is an unique legislative requirement for this.
They are relevant to the Committee’s inquiry into an attack upon the Legislative Branch.

The former President failed to prove a chance of success, in particular because (1) of President Biden’s thoughtfully reasoned and cabined conclusion that executive privilege claims are not in America’s best interests; (2) Congress has a uniquely vital interest studying January
Sixth attempt by the Congress to form remedial legislation, and protect its constitution and legislative operations. The balance of interest and equity weighs strongly in favor disclosure, as Trump’s former President has not established irreparable damage.

This concludes the opinion:

Ex-President Trump is not entitled to a preliminary order for all the reasons stated above.

That conclusion was not taken lightly. For the same reasons as former President Trump insists on, the confidentiality of Presidential communications is crucial to the efficient functioning of the Presidency.
Interest is a constitutional right.

Our Constitution, however, divides and checks and balances the power necessary to protect democracy and ensure freedom. Trump must end the executive privilege on presidential communications.
Protecting overriding interests is necessary. Oral Arg. Tr. 33:18–21, 34:23–25. These documents are of national importance to the President and Legislative Branch.

Trump’s goal is for an Article III court in the United States to interfere and invalidate the Judgements of President Trump and Congress. This would delay the Committee’s work and derail negotiations and arrangements that have been made between the Political Branches. It is essential that the Rule of Law holds that the former President has to meet all the legal requirements for preliminary injunctive Relief. Ex-President Trump failed to meet that obligation.

Benjamin Franklin declared, in the beginning, that we had “[a] Republic”—”if [we] can keep it.” It is possible to keep it.” The January 6th events exposed the fragility and tradition of democratic institutions that many of us had come to assume as a given. Each of Congress and President Trump ruled in their respective favor that access to the subset of communication records of the president is required to deal with a critical constitutional issue for the United States. The court has not been able to ignore President Trump’s assessments of Executive Branch interests and to cause a conflict of power that the Political Branch have avoided.