Analysis: The absurd logic of Trump’s bid to defy the January 6 committee


A President who refused to accept the result of a free and fair election and who incited a mob that invaded the US Capitol is arguing that he is acting to protect the republic, the presidency and constitutional norms. That argument is hard to read with a straight face.

His goal is to delay the House select committee’s investigation and keep his West Wing documents secret as long as possible, at least until after the midterm elections when a Republican House majority could shut down the probe. And on that front, he got a short-term victory on Thursday when a panel of appeals court judges granted him a last-minute reprieve to stop the committee from obtaining his White House documents as scheduled on Friday. The move was to allow time for Trump’s appeal to a scathing ruling from a lower court judge earlier this week that comprehensively rejected his claim to shield memos, diary entries, and call and visitor logs with executive privilege. But in their Thursday memo, the three judges — all appointed by Democrats — wrote that it “should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits.”

Trump’s argument that he is trying to defend the presidency may possess a certain legal coherence within the confines of a case he is making that his discussions around January 6 should remain confidential through a doctrine known as executive privilege, which protects presidential deliberations. But in the real world, the claim that he’s acting to protect future occupants of the Oval Office is undermined by his wrecking ball presidency that stretched the Constitution to its limits. It’s the kind of leap of credulity and subversion of truth that defined Trump’s presidency and is consistent with a lifetime approach of using the law to avoid answering the consequences of his own actions rather than pursuing justice.

And as so often before, Trump ends up accusing those who try to hold him to account of being guilty of the exact transgression of which he is accused — in this case eviscerating presidential norms. Trump’s argument would also require outsiders to draw the conclusion that a man who spent four years ignoring the Constitution, defying scrutiny by Congress and stretching the powers of his office suddenly cares for American democracy.

Even when out of office, his tactics and behavior are being replicated by some of his most loyal former aides. An attorney for former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, for example, said on Thursday his client would not cooperate with the January 6 committee until the courts rule on Trump’s executive privilege claim. The former North Carolina congressman is claiming his dealings with Trump are shielded by executive privilege. But select committee Chairman Bennie Thompson demanded Meadows show up before the committee on Friday or else risk a criminal contempt referral — a move the panel already took against Trump political adviser Steve Bannon.

Supreme Court precedent suggests that while ex-presidents may have some expectation of executive privilege in some circumstances, the ultimate decision on the matter rests with the sitting president and not the former one. President Joe Biden has already decided not to…



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