Trump sues to block Capitol riot records
WASHINGTON: Donald Trump is suing to block the release of records related to the January 6 insurrection that he was impeached for inciting, according to court documents released on Monday.
The former president is claiming “executive privilege” to stop former aides giving evidence to Congress, in an escalation of his efforts to stonewall investigators looking into the deadly Capitol assault.
The challenge will likely touch off an extended highstakes showdown in the courts that will test the constitutional authority of Congress to scrutinise the executive branch.
Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol nine months ago in an effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory.
They had been egged on by Mr Trump, whose fiery speech earlier that day falsely claiming election fraud was the culmination of months of baseless claims about a contest he lost fairly to Mr Biden.
“The committee’s request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration,” the lawsuit filed in Washington’s district court said.
Congressional investigators are seeking testimony from officials who could speak to what Mr Trump, who is considering running for a second term in 2024, knew about the attack beforehand, and what he did as it was ongoing.
Since August, the National Archives has been sending Mr Biden and Mr Trump voluminous records requested by investigators, giving them 30 days to review materials.
The Supreme Court has ruled that presidents can keep certain documents and discussions confidential to promote more candid discourse with aides, and Mr Trump is far from the first to take advantage of this carve-out.
No court has ruled on whether the privilege extends to former presidents.
For now, Mr Biden has the final say, and has permitted a first batch of documents to be released.
The lawsuit calls for a federal judge to declare any request from the committee to be invalid and to block the National Archives from turning over any materials.
Even though defeat seems likely, the lawsuit could delay the releases for months or years, threatening to push back a report closer to the 2022 midterm elections.