Jan. 6 Panel Tells SCOTUS It Has Jurisdiction to Seek Trump Documents From Archives

The panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol is arguing that it has jurisdiction to seek archived documents from former President Donald Trump's administration that may provide more insight into the riot.

The House committee is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow an appeals court's earlier ruling, which said that the National Archives should give them access to the documents, to stay in place.

Trump's lawyers have sued to block the National Archives from turning over the documents, claiming that the select committee has "no legitimate legislative purpose" for seeking access to them. They also claimed that providing those documents would damage for future presidents the power of executive privilege, which the former president invoked to keep the documents out of the committee's hands.

Trump's lawyers asked the high court last week to hear arguments on his executive privilege claim aimed at keeping the documents within the archives. But lawyers for the Jan. 6 panel argued against his request in a court filing Thursday.

"Although the facts are unprecedented, this case is not a difficult one," the lawyers said in the filing, adding. "This Court's review is unwarranted, and the petition for a writ of certiorari should be denied."

If the Supreme Court decides not to hear Trump's appeal, the Dec. 9 appeals court's ruling would be final.

House Select Committee
The panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol is arguing that it has jurisdiction to seek archived documents from former President Donald Trump’s administration that may provide more insight into the riot. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) (C), chair of the select committee investigating the January 6 attack, speaks during a business meeting on Capitol Hill on December 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The nine-member congressional committee is investigating not just Trump's conduct on Jan. 6 — when he told a rally crowd to "fight like hell" shortly before rioters overran law enforcement officers — but also his efforts in the months before to challenge election results or obstruct a peaceful transfer of power.

Trump has attacked the committee's work and continued to promote unfounded conspiracy theories about widespread fraud in the election, even though Joe Biden's victory was certified by all 50 states. His claims have been rebuked by courts across the country.

The committee says the documents, including presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts and handwritten notes, are vital to its investigation into the deadly riot at the Capitol aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit tossed aside Trump's various arguments asserting executive privilege, saying Congress has a "uniquely vital interest" in studying the events of Jan. 6. That panel also placed emphasis on Biden's determination that the documents were in the public interest and that executive privilege should therefore not be invoked.

The question now is whether at least four justices agree to hear the case. The court has six conservative jurists, including three appointed by Trump, and several issues have arisen since Trump's lawyers filed their original petition that might be of interest.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that the House committee had agreed to defer its attempt to get some documents, at the request of the Biden administration. The White House was concerned that releasing all of the Trump administration documents sought by the committee could compromise national security and executive privilege.

The agreement to keep some Trump records away from the committee is memorialized in a Dec. 16 letter from the White House counsel's office. It mostly shields records that do not involve the events of Jan. 6 but were covered by the committee's sweeping request for documents from the Trump White House about the events of that day.

While the agreement focused on specific concerns, the potential narrowing of the documents requests is an acknowledgment that it was broad. That point forms a foundation of the court filing to the Supreme Court by Trump's lawyers, where the words broad, overly broad, strikingly broad and hopelessly broad are sprinkled throughout. It is a point that Trump noticed as well.

In a statement following the disclosure of the agreement, the former president said the committee had "just dropped a large portion of their request for my records and documents — a very big story" and the action "also changes the entire complexion of their request."

On Wednesday, Trump's lawyers sent a supplemental request asking the court to look into an interview that committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., did with the Washington Post. During the interview, Thompson indicated the committee is looking into Trump's actions the day of the insurrection to determine if it can recommend the Justice Department open a criminal investigation.

The filing argues that such action is outside the committee's legislative purpose. "It cannot embark on what is essentially a law enforcement investigation with the excuse that it might legislate based on information it turns up in the course of the exploration," the filing said.

Trump's attempts to limit investigations against him have had mixed results with the Supreme Court. The court earlier this year refused to stop his tax records from going to a New York prosecutor's office as part of an investigation. It did prevent Congress last year, while Trump was in office, from obtaining banking and financial records for him and members of his family.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Trump Documents
Former President Donald Trump's lawyers asked the high court last week to hear arguments on his executive privilege claim aimed at keeping documents within the National Archives. But lawyers for the Jan. 6 panel argued against his request in a court filing Thursday. Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on October 09, 2021 in Des Moines, Iowa. Scott Olson/Getty Images