Trump gets US court win to shield documents in Jan 6 probe

Mr Donald Trump filed a lawsuit in October to stop the National Archives from handing the documents over to the panel. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Donald Trump won a temporary hold on the release of his presidential diaries, call logs and other records to a US House panel investigating the Capitol riot.

The National Archives was set to release some of the documents Friday to a committee investigating the Jan 6 riot but the US appeals court in Washington granted the former president's request to prevent that for now.

"The purpose of this administrative injunction is to protect the court's jurisdiction to address appellant's claims of executive privilege and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits," a three-member panel of the appeals court said in a ruling Thursday (Nov 11).

The court agreed to hear arguments in the case on Nov 30.

Trump filed a lawsuit in October to stop the National Archives from handing the documents over to the panel, invoking executive privilege. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled in favour of Congress on Nov 9, a decision that Trump promptly appealed.

The House committee, which is made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, began investigating the assault on the Capitol over the summer. In addition to seeking records from the White House, the panel has subpoenaed documents and testimony from former Trump advisers, including political strategist Steve Bannon and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Executive privilege allows the president to keep certain records confidential, but it's usually reserved for the current occupant of the White House. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has waived it in this case. Lawyers for Trump, a Republican, argue that a former president should maintain some ability to invoke it. The insurrection at the Capitol was staged to overturn Biden's election.

In denying Trump's effort to stop the National Archives from giving Congress the documents, Chutkan said on Tuesday that the "public interest lies in permitting - not enjoining - the combined will of the legislative and executive branches to study the events that led to and occurred on Jan 6."

Of his claim of executive privilege, she said it "exists to protect the executive branch, not an individual" and that "the incumbent President - not a former President - is best positioned to evaluate the long-term interests of the executive branch." "Presidents are not kings," she said, "and plaintiff is not president."

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