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Trump Sues to Stop January 6th Committee's Record Requests

AP Photo/LM Otero

Donald Trump filed a lawsuit on Monday in his capacity as 45th President of the United States to stop the House of Representatives' select committee on the events of January 6th from obtaining records from his administration — requests his lawyers say are unconstitutional, unprecedented, and politically motivated.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Trump's lawsuit names four parties as defendants: January 6th committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the January 6th committee itself, Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The complaint states that the January 6th committee "has decided to harass President Trump and senior members of his administration (among others) by sending an illegal, unfounded, and overbroad records request to the Archivist of the United States," a request that is "limitless in scope" seeking "records with no reasonable connection" to the events of January 6th. 

The lawsuit further calls the committee's request a "political ploy" for Biden to "accommodate his partisan allies" after he "refused to assert executive privilege over numerous clearly privileged documents requested by the Committee. The Committee’s request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition," the complaint alleges. 

Contained within the "potentially millions of presidential records" requested by the committee, Trump's lawsuit states that such records contain "information within the scope of various components of executive privilege, including but not limited to the presidential-communications, deliberative-process, attorney-client, and attorney-work-product privileges, and which include law enforcement information, national security information, and information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods."

According to a memo from Trump's communications director that called Pelosi's action "illegitimate," their legal plea for relief from the January 6th committee's document request is based on three points that his team say negate the committee's requests. 

First, the legal team maintains that the requests don't meet the threshold of serving a "legitimate legislative purpose," saying the "request is not just overly broad, it requests documents including campaign polling data—what does Congress hope to learn from this?" Trump's memo questions. 

Second, the matter of executive privilege and whether the Biden White House can remove that hurdle for the preceding administration. "An incumbent administration does not have the constitutional authority to unilaterally waive the executive privilege of a previous administration—especially one so recent," says Trump's team. "If it did, then executive privilege doesn’t exist, including for Joe Biden," they note. 

Lastly, the matter of timing. According to Trump's memo, the "National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has not even had the time to compile and organize the documents being requested by Congress—which is the largest request in American History," they say. "President Trump and Joe Biden should be afforded the time to diligently review any protected and privileged documents before it is released to the public."

Based on these claims, Trump's lawsuit asks that the court "invalidate the Committee’s requests and enjoin the Archivist from turning over the records in question. At a bare minimum, the Court should enjoin the Archivist from producing any potentially privileged records until President Trump is able to conduct a full privilege review of all of the requested materials."

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