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Supreme Court declines Trump’s request to block records from Jan. 6 panel

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected former President Donald Trump’s request to prevent congressional investigators from obtaining White House records concerning Trump’s activities leading up to and during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol building.

The 8-1 decision by the justices was the latest hurdle to Trump’s attempt to claim executive privilege over hundreds of pages of documents sought by the House select committee investigating Jan. 6. In November, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that Trump did not have the authority to overrule current President Biden, who has so far chosen to waive executive privilege over the records sought by the committee. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., then affirmed that ruling in December, prompting Trump to submit an emergency request last month asking the Supreme Court to intervene.

Pro-Trump supporters at the Capitol
Pro-Trump supporters at the Capitol following a rally with then-President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

But nearly all of the justices ruled against Trump’s request on Wednesday, with only Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting.

By rejecting the ex-president’s executive privilege claims, the Supreme Court decision opens the door for the Jan. 6 committee to receive hundreds of pages of White House communications, emails, text messages and other documents that could offer a new and potentially significant roadmap to the activities of Trump and his key advisers as they attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The court’s decision also could effectively moot the challenges to committee subpoenas by former Trump aides, like ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, both of whom have invoked Trump’s claims of executive privilege as grounds for not turning over documents or agree to submit for questioning by the committee.

The court’s terse opinion was especially surprising since only one justice, Clarence Thomas, voted to take up the case and hear the former president’s arguments on the issue. None of Trump’s three appointees to the court — Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh — sided with him, although Kavanaugh issued a limited dissent stating that he did not accept a portion of a U.S. Court of Appeals opinion stating that former presidents did not have standing to invoke executive privilege if the incumbent president doesn’t. But since the Court of Appeals ruled that Trump’s executive privilege claims would have failed even if he was still president, the limited Kavanaugh dissent didn’t matter; he concurred in the court’s opinion that the documents in question should be turned over.

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump at a rally in Florence, Ariz., on Jan. 15, 2022. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Jan. 6 committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., praised the Supreme Court decision in a statement Wednesday evening, calling it “a victory for the rule of law and American democracy.”

“The Select Committee has already begun to receive records that the former President had hoped to keep hidden and we look forward to additional productions regarding this important information,” read the statement from Thompson and Cheney. “Our work goes forward to uncover all the facts about the violence of January 6th and its causes. We will not be deterred in our effort to get answers for the American people, make legislative recommendations to strengthen our democracy, and help ensure nothing like that day ever happens again.”

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