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House committee seeking Jan. 6 documents urges appeals court to release Trump files quickly

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Nov. 30.
Image: President Trump In Coronavirus Briefing With Airline CEOs
President Donald Trump at a briefing with airline executives at the White House on March 4, 2020.Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol urged a federal appeals court Monday to swiftly release Trump administration documents to help ensure that "democracy is protected."

Lawyers for the bipartisan House committee filed a court brief arguing that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., should deny former President Donald Trump's request to keep his White House records secret. The appeals court recently granted Trump a short-term victory by temporarily blocking the National Archives from turning over his White House files to the Jan. 6 committee.

The House panel said Monday that any further delay could have long-lasting repercussions.

"An injunction would cause direct, substantial, and immediate harm to the Select Committee and ongoing legislative activities," the committee's lawyers wrote in the legal brief. "The Select Committee's work is of the highest importance and urgency: It is investigating one of the darkest episodes in our Nation's history, a deadly assault on the United States Capitol, the Vice President, and Congress, and an unprecedented disruption of the peaceful transfer of power."

They added, "The Select Committee's task to study and suggest legislation to ensure that January 6 is not repeated and that our Nation's democracy is protected from future attacks, is urgent."

The court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case Nov. 30.

Trump filed his appeal after Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that the committee's pursuit of his records was valid. He has claimed executive privilege over his White House records, and his attorneys suggested this month that partisanship motivated President Joe Biden's refusal to assert executive privilege over Trump's records.

"The disagreement between an incumbent President and his predecessor from a rival political party highlights the importance of executive privilege and the ability of presidents and their advisers to reliably make and receive full and frank advice, without concern that communications will be publicly released to meet a political objective," Jesse Binnall, Trump's attorney, said in a court filing.

Lawyers for the Jan. 6 committee argued in Monday's brief that Trump's request was "unprecedented and deeply flawed."

"The Select Committee has reasonably concluded that it needs the documents of the then-President who helped foment the breakdown in the rule of law," they said.

The House committee has issued batches of subpoenas in recent weeks to dozens of Trump administration officials and allies of the former president. The committee issued a new round of subpoenas Monday, targeting high-profile Trump allies like Roger Stone and Alex Jones.

The panel is pursuing its investigation heading into an election year when Democrats face an uphill battle to defend their razor-thin majority in the House. A GOP majority in the next Congress could dissolve the Jan. 6 committee if it is still conducting its investigation.