Executive Privilege: Last week, Trump and his team went back and forth with courts to block the release of documents related to the Jan. 6 attacks, in defiance of the House committee investigating them. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Executive Privilege
Last week, we saw a whiplash-inducing back-and-forth between former President Donald Trump and the courts. Trump and his team had fought to block the release of documents related to the Jan. 6 attacks, in defiance of the House committee investigating them. Multiple headlines covered the attempted blocks by Trump as well as the courts blocking him in return. It initially seemed like a defeat for the former president, with a judge ruling that his executive powers don’t “[exist] in perpetuity.” However, Trump got a win when “a federal appeals court intervened on Thursday to temporarily block the National Archives from handing over Trump administration records…” The Jan. 6 committee has also issued subpoenas to several Trump White House associates who’ve been reticent to comply. Former adviser Steve Bannon has already been “held in criminal contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena.” Former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also received a subpoena and is at risk of facing a contempt-of-Congress vote. Here’s what both sides are saying as we begin a new week.
On The Left
“Trump won a round in records fight. The Jan. 6 committee will win the war.” Jessica Levinson, MSNBC: “Trump’s victory is almost certainly temporary … It should go without saying that it is not just beneficial, but necessary, to learn things that include what Trump knew about the attempt to thwart the peaceful transfer of power and what he said to others about attempts to undermine the certification of the presidential election … any federal judge, regardless of who appointed them, should reject Trump’s bid to deprive the House committee of these documents. Here we have a former president who is trying to block the release of records that could further implicate him in what certainly is looking like an attempted coup. Executive privilege is, very broadly, designed to allow presidents to obtain candid advice and be able to have conversations that may include sensitive topics such as national security without fear that Congress will later attempt to obtain information about those conversations. The privilege is not absolute…”
“Trump is losing in court. But his threat to democracy is growing.” Paul Waldman, The Washington Post Opinion: “Trump’s assertion that a former president can continue to shield records that likely reveal misconduct is … repugnant … The chances that he could succeed are increased by the normalization of his own corruption and that of those around him. You might remember how in the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6, some corporations announced that they would cease contributions to the Republicans who voted to overturn the election. But now that memories have begun to fade, some of those companies have resumed lining the pockets of the lieutenants in Trump’s war on democracy. … In the early days of [Trump’s] presidency, people would often respond to the latest shocking piece of news by saying ‘This is not normal.’ The greatest danger we face is that any of us will look at not just the Trump years but what is happening right now as normal.”
“Supreme Court’s Watergate-era rulings against Nixon may end Trump’s executive privilege claims.” Joan Biskupic, CNN: “… past decisions involving assertions of executive privilege to keep documents confidential suggest Trump has a weak case … ‘The privilege is not for the benefit of the President as an individual, but for the benefit of the Republic,’ the Supreme Court declared in a 1977 touchstone decision involving former President Richard Nixon.” Keep reading.
On The Right
Right-leaning commentators are not entirely aligned on how they view Trump’s claims. Some believe his executive privilege claims are legitimate, while others call them “bogus.” Nevertheless, they still stand behind Trump, and some think challenging his claims could hurt Democrats in the future.
“Beware of Trifling With Trump’s Executive Privilege.” Editorial, The New York Sun: “The Democrats who are suing to break President Trump’s executive privilege in respect of January 6 might want to be careful for what they wish. The same constitutional lee in which Mr.Trump is trying to shelter might someday — even as early as 2023 — be invoked by a Democratic president, like, say, one Joseph Biden. The burden for the House Democrats is to avoid, in their zeal to get Mr. Trump, degrading the presidency itself. … ‘Presidential conversations are presumptively privileged, but the privilege is not absolute,’ Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled. ‘The presumption can be overcome by an appropriate showing of public need by the judicial or legislative branch.’ … Trifling with the idea of executive privilege that goes back to George Washington would be detrimental to presidents of any party, a point that may prickle sooner than the Democrats would like.”
“Trump’s executive privilege claims are bogus, but his case does deserve review.” Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner: “Former President Donald Trump’s claims of executive privilege almost certainly are flawed, so Trump is likely to lose and the documents likely to be released. Still, for purposes of the preliminary injunction, the court made the right call. While endless delays would not be in order here, a temporary halt is the only just decision. Executive privilege claims are serious matters, even though they are made far too expansively and far too often. As a flashpoint of disputes about where to properly apply lines about the separation of powers between government branches, such assertions of privilege get to the very heart of the constitutional design. … Again, Trump almost certainly is in the wrong here. Still, the former president deserves his day in court.”
“Trump case could come back to bite Biden.” Niall Stanage, The Hill: “Opponents of former President Trump celebrated earlier this week after a federal judge rejected his attempt to withhold documents … But that could end up becoming a case of ‘be careful what you wish for.’ The ruling — and the case in general — could easily weaken the ability of a past president to protect confidential discussions. … it is easy to imagine a future Republican president and a GOP-majority Congress weaponizing the exact same logic to embarrass a Democratic predecessor…” Keep reading.
Flag This: Executive Privilege
The Capitol riot was a shocking and defining moment in American history. The House committee tasked with investigating Jan. 6 was established to understand the lead-up to these events, who was responsible for its organization, and whether or not former President Trump and his administration were involved. The findings of the investigation would ultimately be used to bring the responsible parties to justice and prevent future occurrences.
However, support for the investigative committee has fallen in the last few months. A late-October poll from Morning Consult/Politico found that “Under half (48 percent) of voters approve of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol – down 5 percentage points since a late July survey. Roughly a quarter of independents (23 percent) said they were unsure of their views on the committee’s work, up 9 points over seven weeks, though a plurality are still in favor of it. Just 18 percent of Republicans approve of the panel, down from 25 percent earlier this year and far less than the 81 percent of Democrats who back the committee.”
Flag Poll: Executive Privilege
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