Update: Donald Trump has turned to the Supreme Court for help. Attorneys for the former president filed an emergency petition Thursday to keep his records out of the hands of the House panel investigating the Capitol riot, reports the Hill. House investigators want the National Archives to hand over the documents, but Trump's team argues that doing so would set a bad precedent in regard to presidential privilege. A lower court previously sided against Trump in the battle. Our original story from Dec. 9 follows:
The Supreme Court is now former President Donald Trump's only hope for keeping documents from the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. A federal appeals court panel unanimously rejected his attempt to block the release of hundreds of pages on Thursday, the Washington Post reports. President Biden earlier had declined to claim executive privilege over Trump's files. "Former President Trump has given this court no legal reason to cast aside President Biden’s assessment of the Executive Branch interests at stake, or to create a separation of powers conflict that the Political Branches have avoided," the panel's opinion said.
The three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit let a lower-court ruling stand. The judges allowed 14 days before their ruling takes effect, giving Trump time to file an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, per NBC. Their opinion cited a 1977 case in which the Supreme Court decided an executive privilege battle between former President Richard Nixon and the National Archives. "While former presidents retain some ability to assert the privilege, the current president is in the best position to evaluate when such claims should be honored," that decision said.
Trump's legal team could first ask the entire DC Court of Appeals for a ruling but has indicated the next move will be to the Supreme Court. The House committee is investigating events leading up to the Capitol riot, including Trump's communications. "The President of the United States and Congress have each made the judgment that access to this subset of presidential communication records is necessary to address a matter of great constitutional moment for the Republic," Judge Patricia Millett wrote for the court. The opinion also said, "The events of January 6th exposed the fragility of those democratic institutions and traditions that we had perhaps come to take for granted." (Read more Donald Trump stories.)