WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump on Monday sought to block the release of documents related to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection to a congressional committee investigating the attack, challenging President Joe Biden's initial decision to waive executive privilege.
In a federal lawsuit, Trump said the committee's request was “almost limitless in scope,” and sought records with no reasonable connection to that day.
He called it a “vexatious, illegal fishing expedition” that was “untethered from any legitimate legislative purpose,” according to the papers filed in federal court in the District of Columbia.
Trump's lawsuit was expected, as he had said he would challenge the investigation and at least one ally, Steve Bannon, has defied a subpoena.
But the legal challenge went beyond the initial 125 pages of records that Biden recently cleared for release to the committee. The suit, which names the committee as well as the National Archives, seeks to invalidate the entirety of the congressional request, calling it overly broad, unduly burdensome and a challenge to separation of powers.
It requests a court injunction to bar the archivist from producing the documents.
The Biden administration, in clearing the documents for release, said the violent siege of the Capitol was such an extraordinary circumstance that it merited waiving the privilege that usually protects White House communications.
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the White House worked to undercut Bannon's argument before a scheduled committee vote on whether to recommend criminal contempt charges against him. Bannon is a onetime White House adviser who left the administration years before the insurrection.
Deputy Counsel Jonathan Su wrote that the president's decision on the documents applied to Bannon, too, and “at this point we are not aware of any basis for your client's refusal to appear for a deposition.”
“President Biden's determination that an assertion of privilege is not justified with respect to these subjects applies to your client's deposition testimony and to any documents your client may possess concerning either subject,” Su wrote to Bannon's lawyer.
Bannon's attorney said he had not yet seen the letter and could not comment on it.
Bannon has said he needs a court order before complying with his subpoena.