US Supreme Court blocks Trump bid to shield docs in Capitol probe

High court rejected Trump’s assertion that diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts related to January 6 are shielded by executive privilege.

Former US President Donald Trump
Former US President Donald Trump has said White House has tried to block access to records related to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol [File: Ben Gray/The Associated Press]

The United States Supreme Court has rejected a request from former President Donald Trump to block White House records sought by a congressional panel investigating the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol.

The documents sought by the special House panel include presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts and handwritten notes related to January 6 from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows.

The legislators investigating the circumstances surrounding the deadly incident have said the documents, which are being held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) are important to fully understand a clearer picture of the event and any role Trump and his allies played in its lead-up and aftermath.

The administration of President Joe Biden had previously cleared the documents for release, but Trump has maintained they are still protected under executive privilege, a legal concept that protects the confidentially of some internal White House communications.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with a lower federal court, which had ruled that the documents would not be protected even if Trump were still the president.

“Because the court of appeals concluded that President Trump’s claims would have failed even if he were the incumbent, his status as a former president necessarily made no difference to the court’s decision,” the unsigned order said.

Only one of the court’s nine members, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, publicly noted disagreement with the decision.

In a statement, Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, the panel’s chairman, and Republican Representative Liz Cheney, its vice chair, called the decision “a victory for the rule of law and American democracy”.

They said the committee has already started to receive some of the documents Trump had hoped to withhold.

Trump’s lawyers had previously accused the panel of engaging in “meandering fishing expeditions in the hopes of embarrassing President Trump or exposing the President’s and his staff’s sensitive and privileged communications ‘for the sake of exposure'”.

The decision on Wednesday came as the House committee issued more subpoenas in the investigation, this time to leaders of an alt-right group who appeared at events promoting Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud after the 2020 election.

The committee demanded records and testimony from Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey – internet personalities who have promoted white supremacist beliefs – regarding what legislators say is their promotion of unsupported claims about the election and their presence on Capitol grounds on January 6, 2021.

The House committee has to date interviewed almost 350 people as it seeks to create a comprehensive record of the attack and the events leading up to it.

It has also recommended holding two top Trump allies in contempt of Congress for refusing to participate, partially or in whole, with the investigation.

In November, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was indicted by the Department of Justice for his refusal to comply.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies