Donald Trump has sued the US National Archives and the congressional committee investigating his involvement in the January 6 siege on the Capitol in an attempt to block the release of his presidential records.
The former president filed the lawsuit with the US district court for the District of Columbia on Monday, claiming that nearly 50 documents relating to his presidency could be withheld under “executive privilege”, a legal standard that allows the president and other executive branch officials to keep certain communications confidential.
The lawsuit marks the latest legal scuffle between Trump and House Democrats, who for years fought for access to documents relating to Trump’s presidency and business dealings while he was in the White House.
It also sets the stage for yet another courtroom battle for the former president, whose long list of legal woes includes the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation into The Trump Organization.
While Democratic lawmakers had originally intended to set up a bipartisan committee to investigate the January 6 attack, which interrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory and left at least five people dead, the House Republican leadership boycotted the panel.
Trump was impeached in January on one charge of “incitement to insurrection” for his role in stirring up the mob of supporters that stormed the Capitol, but was subsequently exonerated in a Senate trial after just seven Republican lawmakers voted to convict him.
The separate House committee investigating the former president’s involvement in the riot is led by Bennie Thompson, the Democratic congressman from Mississippi, and has seven Democratic members. Just two Republicans who have publicly broken with their party over its allegiance to Trump — Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — sit on the panel.
In the filing, Trump accused the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack of “harass[ing]” him and “senior members” of his administration by “sending an illegal, unfounded and overbroad request to the archivist of the United States”.
“The committee’s request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration,” Trump and his lawyers alleged. “Our laws do not permit such an impulsive, egregious action against a former president and his close advisers.”
The White House said earlier this month that Biden would not block the National Archives from handing over the documents relating to Trump and his aides’ communications surrounding January 6 to the congressional committee.
In a letter to the national archivist, Dana Remus, White House counsel, said Biden believed it was “not in the best interests” of the US for him to hold back the documents’ release.
Trump is not the only official refusing to co-operate with the January 6 committee. Steve Bannon, his former strategist, has rejected a congressional subpoena to provide evidence to the committee, which is expected to meet on Tuesday to consider whether to hold him in criminal contempt.
Trump pardoned Bannon — who had been charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters who donated to a crowdfunding campaign to build a wall on the US-Mexico border — on the final day of his presidency.