Supreme Court Opens Way for Government To Go Through Trump’s and Others’ Private Documents

Supreme Court Opens Way for Government To Go Through Trump's and Others' Private Documents

( – The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) denied a request from former President Donald Trump to block the National Archives from turning over sensitive documents to the House Select Committee this week. The same committee is currently investigating the events at the US Capitol on January 6. The SCOTUS’s landmark decision now has some questioning whether the ruling grants the government too much power.

Lower Courts Deny Trump’s Request To Block House Select Committee

President Trump initially hoped the SCOTUS would be more receptive to his request after two lower courts both disagreed with the argument that former presidents have the authority to protect secret documents. Trump asked the justices to consider all sides, suggesting their decision ultimately affects whether past, present or future presidents can expect the separation of powers and the Presidential Records Act to protect secret documents during a presidency.

A clash between Trump and the House select committee, which currently seeks to access any records binding the January 6 events to the former president, prompted the case and eventual ruling. Those records include:

  • Visitor logs.
  • Presidential diaries.
  • Any notes from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
  • Binders belonging to former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Former President Trump was forced to file an injunction to block the release of the documents back in October. He first asserted executive privilege over more than 700 pages of records at the heart of the lawsuit before bringing the matter to the two lower courts. Joe Biden and his administration stepped in and declined Trump’s assertion of privilege.

The Supreme Court’s Decision To Deny Trump’s Request Explained

The Supreme Court made a statement about the decision saying the request by a former president to prevent the disclosure of privileged documents from his time in office raises serious concerns. They also noted that Trump’s executive privilege claims would have failed even if he was still in office. The SCOTUS claims that Trump’s former tenure in office had no bearing on their decision to deny his request to block the release.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh said he respected the court’s decision. Still, he disagrees that former presidents should not have the right to protect communications during their tenure, even if the current president refuses to support a claim of executive privilege.

Kavanaugh expressed concern over the potential consequences of releasing private communications after presidents, their staff, and administration leave office. However, he did not clarify precisely what kind of threat it implied, saying only that it would be “severe.”

The Supreme Court’s Landmark Decision On Executive Privilege

The Supreme Court has never ruled on a decision based on executive privilege because no sitting president has ever denied a former president’s invocation of executive privilege. The US Constitution does not explicitly mention executive privilege. However, the separation of powers doctrines that divide the government into three separate branches often rely on it for guidance.

Trump initially challenged the House committee’s request mostly because he believes the January 6 investigation and Congress are overstepping their constitutional powers. A 1978 law does grant the National Archives and Records Administration the authority to release sensitive and secret documentation. The former president contends that it hinders his right to implement executive privilege as a former POTUS.

SCOTUS’ ruling, in this case, sets a precedent that stands to impact presidential claims of executive privilege for other past leaders, too. Some question whether former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton stand to face similar consequences as a result of the outcome. What might the public learn if that were to happen?

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