US appeals court deals Trump another blow

Panel denies the former president's request to block the House Jan. 6 committee from seeing records

U.S. President Donald Trump tosses out "Make America Great Again" (MAGA) caps as he arrives for a campaign rally at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford Township, Michigan, U.S., October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled against an attempt by former president Donald Trump to keep documents from the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

In a 68-page ruling, the three-judge panel dismissed Mr Trump’s arguments for blocking, through executive privilege, records the committee regards as crucial to its investigation into events leading to the deadly riot aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Judge Patricia Millett, writing for the court, said Congress had “uniquely vital interests” in studying the events of January 6 and US President Joe Biden had made a “carefully reasoned” determination that the documents were in the public interest and executive privilege should not be invoked.

Mr Trump also failed to show any harm that would occur from releasing the records Ms Millett wrote.

“On the record before us, former president Trump has provided no basis for this court to override President Biden’s judgment and the agreement and accommodations worked out between the political branches over these documents,” the opinion states.

"Both branches agree that there is a unique legislative need for these documents and that they are directly relevant to the committee’s inquiry into an attack on the legislative branch and its constitutional role in the peaceful transfer of power."

The appeals court ruled that the injunction preventing the National Archives from turning over the documents will expire in two weeks, or when the Supreme Court rules on an expected appeal from Mr Trump, whichever is later.

Mr Trump sued the House committee and the National Archives to stop the White House from allowing the release of documents related to the insurrection.

Mr Biden waived Mr Trump’s executive privilege claims as the current officeholder.

The National Archives has said that the records Mr Trump wants to block include presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts, handwritten notes “concerning the events of January 6” from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows, and “a draft executive order on the topic of election integrity".

US House lawyer Douglas Letter said the determination of a current president should outweigh predecessors in almost all circumstances, and noted that Mr Biden and Congress agreed that the January 6 records should be turned over.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a Biden appointment seen as a contender for a Supreme Court seat should one open during the current administration.

Updated: December 09, 2021, 11:20 PM