The Biden administration moved Friday to block an attempt by former President Donald Trump to keep documentation related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack under wraps.
In a letter to the National Archives from White House counsel Dana Remus viewed by HuffPost, the White House said that, having assessed the information, it would allow Trump-era documentation to be released to the House select committee investigating the deadly riots.
Trump indicated earlier this week that he planned to sue to block the committee’s subpoenas, citing executive privilege ― the concept that presidents have the right to keep some communications and information secret. Under the Presidential Records Act, a past president has “a period of time to assert executive privilege, and then the current president and team [has] a period of time to review that request,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday.
The Biden White House’s move could trigger a battle between the two presidents in court.
“President Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents,” Remus said.
“The constitutional protections of executive privilege,” she wrote, “should not be used to shield, from Congress or the public, information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself.”
“These are unique and extraordinary circumstances,” Remus added later, calling the Jan. 6 riot “the most serious attack on the operations of the Federal Government since the Civil War.”
The White House is not, however, ruling out the possibility that it may block other Trump-era presidential documentation from reaching committee members’ hands. Rather, it will make those decisions on a “case-by-case” basis, Psaki said.
The House committee is seeking a wide array of communications and documentation from around the time of the Capitol attack, including communications relating to Trump’s remarks at his Jan. 6 rally, any documented efforts to persuade him to deliver a message to the rioters, visitor logs, phone logs and many other records.
Much of the information has been requested from the National Archives. In a letter of his own dated Friday, Trump told U.S. Archivist David Ferriero that he was “formally assert[ing] executive privilege” over specific subsets of the documentation. He argued that the committee’s request was “extremely broad” and violated other privileges, such as those between attorney and client.
“The Democrats are drunk on power,” Trump said in a statement that also asserted he “won two elections” and will “perhaps have to do it a third time!”
The House committee has also demanded information directly from certain federal agencies, and from individuals who worked closely with Trump at the time of the attack.
Earlier this week, Trump sent a letter to four such individuals ― former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Defense Department official Kash Patel and former White House social media chief Dan Scavino ― ordering them not to comply with the committee’s requests. The four were asked to supply documentation to the committee by Thursday and appear before its members for questioning next week.
Of the four, only Meadows and Patel are “engaging” with the committee, it said in a Friday statement.
Bannon has explicitly declared his intention to defy the subpoena, arguing that he does not have the authority to comply with it given Trump’s assertion of executive privilege.
Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said they “will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral” for the uncooperative witnesses.
S.V. Date contributed reporting.