If it's Monday, the former president must be whining again. Well, that goes for any day, really. But the old whiner is having a right royal temper tantrum this week over the January 6 Select Committee's request for records from the National Archives. The Archivist's latest brief in the case makes it clear exactly why the former president wants to keep this shit under wraps: The Trump White House was singularly devoted to overturning this election by lawsuit or by force, and was intimately involved in coordinating the "rally" that turned into a riot.

On October 19, Donald Trump's attorney Jesse Binnall filed a howling motion demanding a preliminary injunction. It was largely a recitation of grievances against the Biden administration for failing to assert executive privilege, and an insistence that the Select Committee serves no legitimate legislative purpose and is thus illegal. It also played hilariously fast and loose with the facts, for instance citing a Senate "Review of the Security, Planning and Response Failures on January 6" as proof that "the Senate Homeland Security and Rules Committees blamed 'intelligence and security failures,' not the President or any of his advisors, for what happened at the Capitol that day."

If only the FBI and intel community, which were BTW controlled by Trump and his appointees, had done their jobs, then the goons Trump sent to the Capitol would never have been able to sack it!


Trump demanded a hearing on his request for an injunction before November 12, the date scheduled for release of the first tranche of documents. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan scheduled it for Thursday, November 4. In advance, the Archivist was instructed to submit briefs in support of its position, which is how we got our first look at exactly what Trump wants withheld.

B. John Laster, Director of the White House Liaison Division of the Office of Legislative Archives, Presidential Libraries, and Museum Services in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), submitted a Declaration to the court describing the review process for the three tranches of documents compiled so far.

The first set of documents includes files from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, chief bigot Stephen Miller, and Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin. Trump has asserted privilege over "(i) daily presidential diaries, schedules, appointment information showing visitors to the White House, activity logs, call logs, and switchboard shift-change checklists showing calls to the President and Vice President, all specifically for or encompassing January 6, 2021 (30 pages); (ii) drafts of speeches, remarks, and correspondence concerning the events of January 6, 2021 (13 pages); and (iii) three handwritten notes concerning the events of January 6 from Mr. Meadows' files (3 pages)."

Which makes sense, considering what we already know about Trump's chitchats with Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, Steve Bannon, the Pillow Loon, the Overstock Freak, and dozens of other charlatans leaking hair dye and rancid brain matter all over the Oval Office. There's also plenty of reporting on Mark Meadows's contacts with Stop the Steal organizers, such as Amy Kremer, who has been subpoenaed by the Select Committee.

The second tranche also contains calendared presidential meetings Trump would like to keep on the DL, as well as numerous talking points about supposed election fraud (read: lies) that former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was supposed to barf out. There's also "a draft Executive Order on the topic of election integrity (4 pages)." Was Trump planning to issue an Executive Order declaring himself president for another four years based on "fraud" in the swing states? Dunno! And he'd sure like to keep it that way.

The third set of documents appears to contain evidence of the White House working with outside groups to wield executive authority to keep Trump in power after he'd lost the election, and to co-opt the Justice Department to ask Amy, Brett, Neil, Sam, and Clarence for help. These include "a memorandum apparently originating outside the White House regarding a potential lawsuit by the United States against several states President Biden won (4 pages), an email chain originating from a state official regarding election-related issues (3 pages), talking points on alleged election irregularities in one Michigan county (3 pages), a document containing presidential findings concerning the security of the 2020 presidential election and ordering various actions (3 pages), and notes apparently indicating from whom some of the foregoing were sent (2 pages)."

The Archivist's legal arguments are also interesting, if less juicy. In its brief in opposition to the motion for preliminary injunction, the Archivist points out the weakness of Trump's executive privilege claim now that he's just some crank on a golf cart. Under the Presidential Records Act, the documents at issue are the property of the US Government, and while the former president retains some residual privilege over his own communications, the privilege belongs to the government itself, not to any individual. And the person who controls the executive branch today is not Donald Trump.

And so it's egregiously silly for Trump's legal team to assert executive privilege under the standard laid out in the infamous Mazars case, where Congress issued a subpoena for Trump's financial records held by his accountants. That case involved a subpoena to a third party for documents that arguably belonged to Trump, not a request to the National Archives for government documents to which Congress is legally entitled under the Presidential Records Act. The Mazars case rested on separation of powers issues, whereas here the executive and legislative branches are in agreement that the documents should be disclosed. Here there are no powers to separate. It's only the former president complaining, and he isn't part of the government. It didn't work for Nixon, and it won't work for Trump.

"Plaintiff seeks to expand the residual interest recognized in Nixon v. GSA well beyond any principled application," the Archivist writes. "Indeed, many of his arguments do not properly relate to the presidential communications privilege at all, but rather attack the legitimacy of the congressional investigation into the January 6 attack."

TL, DR? Biden is president, and Trump is not. The privilege and the documents belong to the US government, not some asshole in Florida. We'll see what happens Thursday.

[Trump v. Thompson, Docket via Court Listener]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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