Bipartisan Group Files Amicus Brief Opposing Donald J. Trump’s Attempt to Block Release of January 6 Documents

Brief Highlights Perspective of State and Local Leaders; Contends Further Delay in Disclosure of 700+ Subpoenaed Trump Administration Documents Will Impede Accountability Efforts and Congress’ Ability to Legislate 

Published: 11.22.21

Washington, D.C. — On Monday, a bipartisan coalition of former federal, state, and local officials, along with the States United Democracy Center and Perry Guha LLC, filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing former President Donald Trump’s attempt to block the release of documents about the January 6 insurrection. The House of Representatives’ Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol (the “Select Committee”) requested the records from the National Archives as part of its ongoing investigation into the violent attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Trump filed a lawsuit to block the release of the records, but U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan denied Trump’s request for an injunction. The brief argues that the federal appellate court in Washington D.C. should quickly uphold Judge Chutkan’s ruling so that Congress can get the records it needs to hold violators accountable and pass legislation to protect our democracy.

Providing the perspective of state and local leaders, including those who have overseen and administered elections, the brief asserts that any further delay in disclosure of these papers will impede the Select Committee’s ability to recommend legislation to protect and improve electoral integrity and the peaceful transfer of power. Specifically, the amicus brief argues that Judge Chutkan’s ruling should stand because:

  • Former officeholders in our democratic system have no authority to invoke their old powers in defiance of the incumbent.
  • State and local election and law enforcement officials know that January 6 was not an isolated incident.
  • The forces that produced the attacks on the Capitol still threaten public safety and free and fair elections at the national, state, and local level.

Former federal, state, and local officials who are members of the States United bipartisan advisory board signed the brief. The list of signatories include: Gregory A. Brower, Steve Bullock, Tom Coleman, Jack Conway, Frankie Sue Del Papa, Norman Eisen, John J. Farmer, Jr., Trey Grayson, Jim Hood, Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld, Jahna Lindemuth, Patricia Madrid, Tom Rath, Sarah R. Saldaña, Christine Todd Whitman and William F. Weld (bios below).

“The violence we saw on January 6, 2021 is far from over; state and local officials who run our elections still face violent threats and harassment to this day,” said former Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Co-Chair of the States United Democracy Center. “As former government officials with experience at the state and local level, we know that until we get all the facts about the insurrection — including the documents the former president wants to keep hidden—our free and fair elections will be at risk. We urge the appellate court to act immediately.”

“The courts have a crucial role to play in affording the people of our country and elected officials the information and tools needed to understand the events of January 6 and prevent history from repeating itself,” said Ambassador Norm Eisen, Co-Chair of States United Democracy Center and former White House Ethics Czar. “This is not a hard case or a complicated legal question. Trump is not the president and therefore he no longer benefits from executive privilege. It is imperative that the courts do not play along with Donald Trump’s delay game.”

“Our constitution gives ex-presidents no title, no role, and no powers. The Framers were keenly aware of the important differences between a president and a king,” said Danya Perry, founding partner at Perry Guha, LLC and a former federal prosecutor.Trump is not above the law, and he cannot exert his will to stop the release of the January 6 records. The appellate court should put  an end to Trump’s continued attempts to keep the country in the dark about the attack on the Capitol.”

Key excerpts from the brief are outlined below:

Amici, who support and endorse in full the arguments advanced by the Defendants-Appellees, speak in particular to aspects of Trump’s appeal that implicate the interests of state and local election and law enforcement officials. Amici urge this Court to reaffirm principles that are central to the integrity of our democracy and that inform amici’s own approaches to their current and former work.

First: Amici—who include federal, state, and local officials—know that former officeholders in our democratic system have no authority to invoke their old powers in defiance of the incumbent. The peaceful transfer of power imbues a newly elected official with all the powers of the office—and sends former officials home as nothing more nor less than private citizens. Lifetime authority is a badge of royalty that is inimical to the American idea. In keeping with that critically important democratic norm, our fundamentally antimonarchical Constitution withheld any powers from former presidents. Trump asks this Court to embrace a principle abhorrent to our Constitution and our democracy. That is why he can neither prevail on the merits nor demonstrate irreparable harm.6

Second: State and local election and law enforcement officials know that January 6 was not an isolated incident. It was, instead, a graphic instantiation of public safety and the free and fair elections upon which democracy depends. That is why the public interest and the balance of the equities weigh heavily in favor of prompt disclosure. The relief that Trump seeks would deeply injure the public, both by frustrating accountability for the attempt to overthrow our government and by preventing Congress from developing legislation to protect our democracy.

Biographies for signatories below.

Gregory A. Brower served as Assistant Director and Deputy General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2016 to 2018; U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada from 2008 to 2009; and Inspector General of the U.S. Government Publishing Office from 2004 to 2006.

Steve Bullock served as Attorney General of Montana from 2009 to 2013; as Governor of Montana from 2013 to 2021; and as chair of the National Governors Association from 2018 to 2019. He worked as an attorney in Montana’s Secretary of State’s office and Attorney General’s office and in private practice before assuming either office.

Tom Coleman is a former eight-term member of Congress from Missouri. Prior to his congressional service he was an Assistant Attorney General of Missouri and twice elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. He has served as an adjunct professor at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University and as an adjunct professor at American University. He is past Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society and is Trustee Emeritus of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.

Jack Conway is the former two-term Attorney General of Kentucky from 2008 to 2016, who served on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General, as co-chair of Consumer Protection for that same organization, and as chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association. He is a trial attorney and current partner at Dolt Thompson Shepherd & Conway; a former board member of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage; and spent six years as legal counsel to former Kentucky Governor Paul Patton.

Frankie Sue Del Papa served as Secretary of State of Nevada from 1987 to 1991 and as Attorney General of Nevada from 1991 to 2003. She also served as an elected member of the Board of Regents for the Nevada System of Higher Education.

John J. Farmer, Jr. has been an Assistant U.S. Attorney, New Jersey Attorney General, Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission, Dean of Rutgers Law School, and now serves as Director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics. He has also served on New Jersey’s Executive Commission on Ethical Standards, Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, and the State Commission of Investigations.

Trey Grayson is an attorney with the law firm Frost Brown Todd and the former Kentucky Secretary of State from 2004 to 2011. During that time, he served as President of the National Association of Secretaries of State and Chair of the Republican Association of Secretaries of State. He also served as the Director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics from 2011-2014.

Jim Hood served as the District Attorney for the Third Judicial District in North Mississippi from 1996-2004; as President of the National Association of Attorneys General from 2014 to 2015; and as Attorney General of Mississippi from 2004 to 2020.

Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She is a global expert on democracies facing violence, polarization, poor governance, and other forms of democratic decline. She advises the U.S. government and other allied nations, is a board member of Freedom House, and serves on the National Task Force on Election Crises.

Jahna Lindemuth served as Attorney General for the state of Alaska from 2016 to 2018, during which time she served on the National Association of Attorneys General executive board and the Conference of Western States Attorneys General executive board. Before serving as Attorney General, General Lindemuth was in private practice for 18 years at an international law firm, representing clients in complex commercial disputes and serving as the Anchorage office’s managing partner for eight years. She has returned to private practice at Cashion Gilmore & Lindemuth, LLC.

Patricia Madrid served two terms as Attorney General of New Mexico, from 1999 to 2007. She has also served as chairperson of the Conference of Western Attorneys General and as Chair of the Board of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Tom Rath served as Assistant Attorney General of New Hampshire from 1972 to 1976; as Deputy Attorney General of New Hampshire from 1976 to 1978; as Attorney General of New Hampshire from 1978 to 1980; as Director of the Legal Services Corporation under President George W. Bush; and as senior national advisor to the presidential campaigns of Howard Baker, Robert Dole, Lamar Alexander, Mitt Romney and George W. Bush. He has been a delegate to nine Republican National Conventions and was the Republican Party National Committeeman for New Hampshire for seven years.

Sarah R. Saldaña served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas (Dallas) from 2011 to 2014 and was appointed to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee during her tenure. Since 2004, she had served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the same office, both as a line prosecutor, including service as the District’s Election Officer, and as Deputy Criminal Chief of the Major Fraud and Public Corruption unit. Most recently, she served as Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from 2014 to 2017.

Christine Todd Whitman is the co-chair of the States United Democracy Center and President of The Whitman Strategy Group. Previously, she served as the Governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001, and as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003.

William F. Weld served as the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts from 1981 to 1986; as the Assistant U.S. Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division from 1986 to 1988; and as Governor of Massachusetts from 1991 until 1997.


About the States United Democracy CenterThe States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit www.statesuniteddemocracy.org.