Former president Donald Trump is suing the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol to avoid cooperating with a subpoena requiring him to give evidence.
The suit filed on Friday evening contends that, while former presidents have voluntarily agreed to provide evidence or documents in response to congressional subpoenas in the past, “no president or former president has ever been compelled to do so”.
“Long-held precedent and practice maintain that separation of powers prohibits Congress from compelling a president to testify before it,” Trump lawyer David A Warrington said in a statement announcing Mr Trump’s intentions.
Mr Warrington said Mr Trump had engaged with the committee “in a good faith effort to resolve these concerns consistent with Executive Branch prerogatives and separation of powers”, but said the panel “insists on pursuing a political path, leaving President Trump with no choice but to involve the third branch, the judicial branch, in this dispute between the executive and legislative branches”.
The committee declined to comment on the filing, which comes days before the the deadline set by the committee for Mr Trump to begin cooperating.
It also comes just days before Mr Trump is expected to formally launch a third campaign for president at his Mar-Lago club.
The committee had voted to subpoena Mr Trump during its final televised hearing before the midterm elections and formally did so last month, demanding evidence from the former president either at the Capitol or by videoconference by mid-November, and continuing for multiple days if necessary.
The letter also outlined a sweeping request for documents, including personal communications between Mr Trump and members of Congress as well as extremist groups.
Mr Trump’s response to that request was due last week, but the nine-member panel extended its deadline to this week.
In his suit, Mr Trump’s lawyers attack the subpoena as overly broad and frame it as an infringement of his First Amendment rights.
They also argue other sources besides Mr Trump could provide the same information the committee wants from him.
The panel, comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans, issued a statement last week saying it was in communication with Mr Trump’s lawyers.
The committee’s decision to subpoena Mr Trump in late October was a major escalation in its investigation, a step politicians said was necessary because, members allege, the former president was the “central player” in a multi-part effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
“I think that he has a legal obligation to testify but that doesn’t always carry weight with Donald Trump,” committee vice chairwoman Liz Cheney said during an event last week.
In addition to demanding that Mr Trump give evidence, the committee also made 19 requests for documents and communication, including for any messages Mr Trump sent on the encrypted messaging app Signal or by “any other means” to members of Congress and others about the stunning events of the January 6 2021, Capitol attack.
The scope of the committee’s request was expansive, pursuing documents from September 1 2020, two months before the election, to the present on the president’s communications with the groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, as the panel looks to compile a historical record of the run-up to the Capitol attack, the event itself and the aftermath.
Mr Trump’s lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Florida, where other Trump lawyers successfully sued to secure a special master who has been tasked with conducting an independent review of records seized by the FBI during an August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.