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Trump fights releasing details on national monument decision

The U.S. government says it does not have to release documents involving legal arguments for President Donald Trump’s decision to shrink national monuments because they are protected presidential communications.

The Department of Justice made a more detailed request of a federal judge in Idaho last week to dismiss a lawsuit from an environmental law firm, one of several tied to the monument reductions. Forcing the documents to be made public “would disrupt the president’s ability to carry out his constitutional responsibilities,” the filing says.

Justice Department attorneys also said that their release would disrupt the attorney-client relationship between the department’s Office of Legal Counsel and its clients in the executive branch.

The Boise-based firm Advocates for the West sued for 12 documents withheld from a public records request related to Trump’s decision to reduce two sprawling monuments in Utah. He also is considering scaling back other monuments.

The documents written during the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations may justify why those former presidents made the monuments as large as they did and thus undercut Trump’s plans to shrink them, the firm said.

“There is no legal authority for what (Trump) did in early December,” said Advocates for the West attorney Todd Tucci. “These 12 documents will eviscerate any argument that his minions have concocted in the last month and a half. That’s why they’re hiding it.”

Previous presidents created national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which sets guidelines calling for the “smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

Trump has said the monuments to be downsized are much larger than required in the Antiquities Act.

It’s not clear what particular monuments might be mentioned in the documents. Tucci said the timing of the Bush administration document appears to be related to the 2006 designation of a marine monument that includes…

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