The US Supreme Court has allowed the release of presidential documents sought by the congressional committee investigating the Capitol insurrection.
The justices on Wednesday rejected a bid by former president Donald Trump to withhold the documents from the committee until the issue is finally resolved by the courts. Mr Trump’s lawyers had hoped to prolong the court fight and keep the documents on hold.
Following the court’s action, there is no legal impediment to turning over the documents, which are held by the National Archives and Records Administration. They include presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts and handwritten notes dealing with January 6 from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows.
The committee has already begun to receive records Mr Trump wanted kept secret, said Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney, the committee chairman and vice chairwoman respectively.
“The Supreme Court’s action tonight is a victory for the rule of law and American democracy,” Ms Thompson and Ms Cheney said in a statement pledging to “uncover all the facts about the violence of January 6th and its causes”.
White House spokesperson Mike Gwin called the ruling “an important step forward” for the investigation “and in ensuring accountability for an unprecedented assault on our democracy and the rule of law”.
The House committee agreed to defer its attempt to get some documents at the request of Joe Biden’s administration. The current administration was concerned that releasing all of Mr Trump’s administration documents sought by the committee could compromise national security and executive privilege.
Alone among the justices, Clarence Thomas said he would have granted Mr Trump’s request to keep the documents on hold.
Mr Trump’s attorneys had asked the high court to reverse rulings by the federal appeals court in Washington and block the release of the records even after Mr Biden waived executive privilege over them.
In an unsigned opinion, the court acknowledged there are “serious and substantial concerns” over whether a former president can win a court order to prevent disclosure of certain records from his time in office in a situation like this one.
But the court noted that the appeals court determined that Mr Trump’s assertion of privilege over the documents would fail under any circumstances, “even if he were the incumbent”.
It said the issue of a former president’s ability to claim executive privilege would have to wait for another day.