Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is urging the Supreme Court to take up former President Donald Trump’s case aiming to keep secret records from his presidency about efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection – as he, like Trump, tries to evade a House select committee’s investigation into the attack on the US Capitol.
In a brief filed Friday, Meadows, who is facing a potential criminal contempt charge for failing to comply with the House January 6 committee’s subpoena, argued that the Supreme Court should allow former presidents to have a say in the secrecy of the executive branch and that the high court should put limits on what he claimed is an ever-expanding approach to congressional investigations.
In his lawsuit, Trump claimed executive privilege should allow him to block the select committee from getting some of the documents from the National Archives, the custodian of his administration’s White House records. President Joe Biden has diverged from Trump’s claims and decided the Archives should hand over the documents.
“What sets this case apart is the undisputed fact that, under the Presidential Records Act, President Biden has no authority to disclose President Trump’s records on his own, just as under the Constitution, Congress has no authority to compel the production of the privileged material,” said Meadows’ amicus brief, from his legal team at the law firm McGuireWoods. “Unless the Court steps in to say otherwise, Presidential advisors will henceforth need to assume that it only takes a party-change in the Presidency and a sympathetic Committee Chairman in Congress to compel disclosure of their advice and other Presidential communications.”
Meadows’ brief also dings the House committee for its members who have publicly discussed the possibility of criminal referrals emerging from their probe.
“Unless this Court steps in, the Select Committee’s investigation will represent the greatest expansion of Congress’s power to investigate and target private citizens since the days of the House Un-American Activities Committee,” wrote the team defending Meadows, who is a former Republican member of Congress.
The federal appeals court in DC that ruled against Trump in December signed off on the legitimacy of the House probe.
Meadows also told the Supreme Court that he believes it should hear Trump’s case because it has implications for several witnesses the House committee has subpoenaed for documents.
Meadows and more than a dozen others have sued separately to challenge the committee, and those cases are in their earliest stages before trial-level judges. Meadows said in his case that if he answered any question the committee asked him or turned over all documents its members want, he could be revealing information Trump is trying to keep secret.
“Former officials are thus left to navigate conflicting instructions from the incumbent President and the former President under whom they served. If they follow President Biden’s direction and provide privileged testimony to Congress, they effectively moot President Trump’s assertion of Executive Privilege— as well as this Court’s opportunity to clarify waiver of privilege held by former Presidents,” Meadows’ lawyers wrote. “If they follow President Trump’s direction and defy a subpoena without first seeking judicial recourse (as [Meadows] has), they face the prospect of prosecution.”
The House has asked the Justice Department to prosecute Meadows for contempt of Congress for failing to testify, but he has not been charged.
The House also wants the Supreme Court to look at Trump’s requests in the case quickly. The committee is working toward a goal of releasing an interim report with initial findings by the summer.
By keeping the executive privilege questions in court, Trump has so far delayed the release of documents and chilled witnesses responding to the House’s subpoenas since the fall.