An appeals court has made the right decision in rejecting attempts to block the release of some of former President Donald Trump's records related to the Jan. 6 Capitol incursion.
I had argued a month ago that the court was right to issue a temporary injunction against releasing the documents until it could consider Trump's arguments to that effect, but I also wrote then that Trump's claims seemed legally spurious. Having now had a chance to hear Trump's case, the court was right to reject it. Executive privilege claims rarely have been thought to extend past a president's term in office unless the current president continues to make those claims on behalf of the presidency as an institution. President Joe Biden, though, opposed Trump's claims as a legal matter and supports the release of the documents.
A special congressional committee is investigating the Jan. 6 riot, and it justifiably wants to know whether there was White House involvement in orchestrating it or, more likely, an active refusal by Trump and his aides to take adequate steps to combat it once it began. It needs this information not to harass Trump but to see what steps can be taken to avoid or respond better to any future attempts like the Capitol riot. That riot, after all, was an effort to stop Congress from performing a constitutionally mandated function crucial to the operation of the U.S. constitutional republic.
The appeals court judges rightly ruled that there is a "unique legislative need" for the records that overwhelms any remaining executive privilege claims. It did, however, allow two weeks for Trump to appeal and for the Supreme Court to consider whether to reissue an injunction against releasing the documents until the high court can consider Trump's case on the merits. This, too, is fair. On a matter of such importance for bedrock constitutional considerations involving the separation of powers in the federal government, the Supreme Court should be given a chance to indicate whether it sees a need to review the arguments.
Again, Trump is so likely to lose that the Supreme Court may even decline to take up the case at all. Yet by providing a two-week window, the appeals court at least allows for an emergency appeal while still avoiding unwarranted delay.
The system is working as it should. Now, on to the next step in the process.