In a legal blow for Donald Trump, the Supreme Court has cleared the way for presidential records dating from his time in office to be turned over to a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
Trump, through his lawyers, had sought to shield over 800 pages of information from the panel, citing executive privilege, which allows for a president to withhold certain information from public release. But in a 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court on Jan. 19, 2022, rejected a request to block the documents from being handed to Congress.
The ruling has immediate – and potentially longer-term – consequences. Here are three key takeaways from the court’s decision.
1. Executive power has its limits
Trump has championed an expansive view of executive power. During his presidency, he refused to provide information to Congress by asserting executive privilege over a dozen times, issued executive orders in the face of congressional opposition, and even sued his personal and business accountants to prevent them from handing personal tax information over to Congress, which had subpoenaed those records.
Unlike previous presidents, Trump refused to negotiate with Congress over disclosing White House records. Instead, he took his fights with Congress to the courts.
Out of office, Trump continues to resist efforts to disclose information about his presidency. He has urged several former White House staffers and advisers to claim executive privilege in response to subpoenas for information related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. The Congress has even had to take the extraordinary step of referring former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to the Department of Justice for criminal contempt proceedings because they have refused to comply with subpoenas.
Federal courts do not like to wade into disputes between the executive branch and Congress, but Trump pushed them to do so.
In its short opinion, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s expansive view of executive power. The court denied Trump’s request to prevent the National Archives from releasing documents to the committee, stating that his case to shield the records could not prevail “under any of the tests [he] advocated.”
The court added, “Because the court of appeals concluded that President Trump’s claims would have failed even if he were the incumbent, his status as a former president necessarily made no difference in the decision.”
It isn’t the first time that the Supreme Court has had to wade into the issue of Trump’s attempted use of executive power to withhold information from Congress.
In a 2020 ruling in Trump v. Mazars – in which Trump sued his accountants in a bid to prevent their release of tax documents to Congress – the court rejected Trump’s claim of absolute immunity from congressional process and crafted a new analysis to determine when Congress can obtain a president’s personal records.
Similarly, in the latest ruling the Supreme Court appears to be pushing back against Trump’s expansive view of executive power in favor of a more balanced approach.
2. Unanswered question over ex-presidents and executive privilege
Although the justices questioned Trump’s expansive view on executive power, the Supreme Court ruling still preserves the ability of a former president to raise such a claim.
This is consistent with a landmark 1977 decision in which the Supreme Court held that former President Richard Nixon could claim executive privilege in challenging a federal law known as “The Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act.”
That law ensured that government agencies – and, ultimately, the public – could obtain certain documents and tape recordings made during Nixon’s presidency.
The court allowed Nixon to make the executive privilege claim, but it ultimately ruled against him. In upholding the law, the Supreme Court noted that the lack of support for Nixon’s claim by other presidents weakened his case for executive privilege.
The court, in its latest ruling, did not consider the questions of whether and under what conditions a former president may be able to prevail on a claim of executive privilege.
3. The importance of congressional oversight
The Supreme Court’s ruling also reiterated the importance of congressional oversight, and the need for the American people to learn the truth about what happened on Jan. 6, 2021.
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By paving the way for the House Select Committee to access hundreds of documents – including visitor and call logs, emails, draft speeches and handwritten notes – the court has seemingly recognized that a healthy, stable democracy depends on people knowing what their government is doing so they can hold elected officials accountable.
As such, the Supreme Court has indicated a willingness to protect a constitutional system that can ensure transparency and accountability by legitimizing legislative branch oversight over the executive.
Jewish Capitol visitors left 'confused' after Lauren Boebert asked if they were doing 'reconnaissance'
A group of Jewish Americans who recently visited the United States Capitol building say they felt "confused" after Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) grilled them about whether they were doing a "reconnaissance" mission.
As Buzzfeed News reports, the group was in the Capitol for a meeting with Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) when they encountered Boebert as she was stepping out of an elevator.
"When the doors opened, Boebert stepped out of the elevator and looked the group of visitors 'from head to toe,'" one witness told Buzzfeed. "Boebert then asked if they were there to conduct 'reconnaissance.'"
Many members of the group were wearing yarmulkes, and the person coordinating the visit was an Orthodox Jew who also had a traditional beard.
“When I heard that, I actually turned to the person standing next to me and asked, ‘Did you just hear that?’” one rabbi who was with the group told Buzzfeed. "You know, I’m not sure to be offended or not... I was very confused.”
Boebert was famously accused of bringing Capitol insurrectionists into the building ahead of the January 6th riots to conduct reconnaissance, although no evidence has emerged to justify that claim.
Boebert confirmed to Buzzfeed that that's what she was referencing with her comment and she claimed that she didn't see the visitors' yarmulkes when she made the comment.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the mastermind of the effort that resulted in fake electors submitting election certificates in five states, according to a new report in The Washington Post.
Republicans were signed on to Arizona's phony election certificate refused to tell the Arizona Republic who organized the effort. One of the fake electors in Michigan said the call from "an attorney working on behalf of Trump in Washington, D.C."
On Thursday, The Post reported it was Giuliani, a former associate attorney general who had his law licenses suspended for spreading Trump's lies about election fraud.
"The Trump electors gathered in plain sight, assisted by campaign officials and Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, who said publicly that the rival slates were necessary and appropriate. Internally, Giuliani oversaw the effort, according to former campaign officials and party leaders who, like some others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations," the newspaper reported. "One of the people familiar with the plan said Giuliani was assisted at times by an anchor from the right-wing network One America News."
The reporter is allegedly Christina Bobb.
"Behind the scenes, in the days leading up to the electoral college vote, Giuliani participated in at least one conference call with campaign staffers and Republican activists that included detailed discussions about preparing the rival electoral slates, according to former campaign officials," the newspaper reported.
Giuliani's alleged role could expose him to legal liability. State Attorneys General Dana Nessel (D-MI) and Hector Balderas (D-MN) have forwarded criminal referrals to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Former federal prosecutors Dennis Aftergut and Melanie Sloan have argued it is important for the Department of Justice to charge those responsible.
"Those who had a hand in crafting and attempting to submit false certificate of electors may have committed multiple crimes, including forgery and fraud. The actions of these state officials are important steps towards uncovering the scope and depth of the attempted plot to steal the election and keep former President Trump in power," they wrote. "Many of the certificates used the same words and font, as if coordinated and copied from a common template. By contrast, the genuine certificates vary greatly in form, language and look."
On Monday, the House Select Committee Investigating the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol issued a subpoena to Giuliani, along with Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell, and Boris Epshteyn.
"Rudolph Giuliani actively promoted claims of election fraud on behalf of the former President and sought to convince state legislators to take steps to overturn the election results. He was reportedly in contact with then-President Trump and various Members of Congress regarding strategies for delaying or overturning the results of the 2020 election," the committee explained.