The letter states that the committee is looking for materials that fall under executive and other privileges.
“President Trump is ready to defend these basic privileges in court,” the letter reads.
Then the letter instructed its recipient to withhold any documents relating to his work in the White House and to refuse to testify about his official duties.
The letter ushers in the first major political and legal test for the special committee investigating the violent attack by Trump supporters on the Capitol. It is unclear how the committee will attempt to enforce the subpoenas from the Trump allied foursome, but members of the panel – which includes seven Democrats and two anti-Trump Republicans – have announced that they will call on the Justice Department to bring witnesses to the ground refuse to comply.
It also remains to be seen whether former Trump officials will follow Trump’s instructions. If convicted of criminal disregard for Congress, they face a year in prison and a fine of up to $ 100,000.
Investigating the attack, in which more than 150 police officers were injured, is a top priority for Democrats in Congress.
Trump’s move could also create a dilemma for the Biden administration. Most presidents refuse to weaken the privileges of the executive branch, the vaguely defined right for presidents to hold talks with their advisors without worrying that those talks might one day become public.
The constitution doesn’t mention the concept, but the courts have determined that it exists. Presidents sometimes claim it to protect their advisors from complying with subpoenas from Congress.
The White House clarified its stance on the enforcement of executive privileges on the committee’s January 6 inquiries last month after press secretary Jen Psaki said a decision had been made not to protect Trump-era records. Following the Psaki comment, a White House spokesman said the Biden administration would actually make these calls on a case-by-case basis.
Nonetheless, experts previously told POLITICO that they suspect that Biden’s legal office in the White House may in some cases invoke privileges on behalf of Trump. That’s because the weakening of executive privileges in general could create problems for Biden. The Meadows subpoena is particularly sensitive; The idea of opposing party’s congressional investigators criticizing a White House chief of staff is a nightmare scenario for most presidents.
At the same time, Meadows likely has detailed knowledge of Trump’s behavior before and during the Jan. 6 attack and was backstage at the #StopTheSteal rally in the National Mall, where Trump spoke ahead of the Capitol siege.
Experts are divided on the question of how former presidents can exercise executive privileges. David Rivkin, former attorney for the Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush administrations, told POLITICO that only incumbent presidents can exercise executive privileges.
“He can demand that the incumbent president exercise his privileges,” added Rivkin of Trump.
And MP Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a member of the select committee, also spoke on the matter. “There is no such thing as a former president’s executive privilege,” he told the Washington Post. “It’s extremely watered down and not really relevant.”
But that’s not a consensus. Saikrishna Prakash, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, said the conflict was breaking new legal ground and the Supreme Court found that former presidents enjoy at least partial executive privileges.
“Imagine having a conversation with President Biden in the last two months of his presidency,” said Prakash. “Will you give him honest advice when you know that it will come out in two months, that the privilege will be over in two months? No, maybe not. “
A Trump spokesman criticized the committee in a statement.
“The highly partisan communist-style ‘selection committee’ has tabled an outrageously broad filing request that lacks both legal precedents and legislative merit,” Trump’s communications director Taylor Budowich said in a statement.
“Executive privilege is being defended, not only on behalf of President Trump and his administration, but also on behalf of the office of President of the United States and the future of our nation. The fake news continues to lure the Democrats, who are desperately trying to distract the country with this bogus trial. “
Regardless, Trump’s letter will delight his followers. The Guardian reported Wednesday that Trump was planning to cite the executive branch’s privilege to instruct the four men not to abide by it, and Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield cheered the move.
“You get that with President Trump,” said Stinchfield. “You get a man who will fight back. You understand me? The President defends himself. That’s what we love about President Trump, and he holds onto these people who try to chase him. “