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The US Supreme Court rejects Trump’s attempt to keep the Capitol attack records secret

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected former President Donald Trump's request to block the release of White House records as the Democratic-led congressional panel investigates last year's deadly attack on the Capitol by a crowd of his followers.

The decision means that the documents in the possession of a federal agency that keeps government and historical records can be disclosed, even if lawsuits over the case continue in lower courts.

Only one of the nine members of the court, Conservative Judge Clarence Thomas, publicly remarked that he disagreed with the decision.

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Trump's request to the judges came after the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Dec. 9 ruled that the businessman who became a politician had no basis to challenge President Joe Biden's decision to allow the records to be handed over to the House. . by the Committee of Representatives.

Trump and his allies have been waging an ongoing legal battle with the committee, which is trying to block access to documents and witnesses. Trump has tried to invoke a legal principle known as executive privilege, which protects the confidentiality of some internal communications in the White House, a position rejected by lower courts.

The brief Supreme Court ruling noted that the weighty question of whether a former president can claim an executive privilege claim did not need to be answered to resolve the matter.

"Because the appellate court concluded that President Trump's allegations would have failed even if he were the incumbent, his status as former president did not necessarily make any difference to the court's decision," the unsigned order states.

The House of Representatives committee has said it needs the records to understand any role Trump may have played in inciting the violence that unfolded on January 6, 2021. His supporters stormed the Capitol in a failed attempt to prevent Congress from formally to confirm Biden's 2020 presidential election victory over Trump.

The committee has asked the National Archives, which has Trump records from the White House, to produce visitor logs, telephone records and written communications between his advisers.

Biden, who took office two weeks after the riots, has decided that the records belonging to the executive should not be subject to executive privileges and that it was in the nation's best interest to hand them over to Congress. Trump has argued that he can invoke executive privileges based on the fact that he was president at the time, even though he is no longer in office.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan dismissed Trump's arguments on Nov. 9, saying he had not acknowledged the "reverence" due to Biden's decision that the committee could access the records, adding: "Presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president. "

The select committee consists of seven Democrats and two Republicans. The Supreme Court's Conservative majority of 6-3 includes three judges appointed by Trump, but it has not always been receptive to his requests.

The court last year rejected his request to block the publication of his tax records as part of a criminal investigation in New York and also rejected Trump and his allies' attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Shortly before the riot, Trump reiterated to a crowd of his supporters his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread vote-rigging, telling them to go to the Capitol and "fight like hell" to "stop the theft" .

Any delay on the part of the Supreme Court in allowing the publication of the records could have jeopardized the panel's chances of getting them. The committee aims to end its work ahead of the November congressional election, in which Trump's Republicans seek to regain control of the House of Representatives. Republicans were against the creation of the panel and could shut down the poll if they win a majority in the House.

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Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing Will Dunham

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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