WASHINGTON – The White House said Friday that US President Joe Biden will not stop him from handing over documents demanded by a House committee investigating the January 6 uprising at the US Capitol that seeks to set up a showdown with former President Donald Trump, who want to protect. They from White House records investigators.
White House counsel Dana Remus’ letter to the United States archivist comes at the start of a potentially lengthy legal battle over the investigation. Trump, who told his supporters to “fight like hell” on the morning of the rebellion and defended rioters beating police and storming the Capitol, is trying to stop Congress from learning more. Biden has so far sided with House Democrats, who have asked for thousands of pages of documents and summoned witnesses linked to Trump.
The House committee investigating the rebellion, formed over the summer, now has the important task of sorting out the details and obtaining documents and testimony from witnesses who may or may not be collaborators. And the jockeying between the two administrations, Congress and witnesses will certainly delay the investigation and set the stage for messy litigation that could stretch well into 2022.
In a separate development on Friday, a lawyer for Steve Bannon said the former White House aide would not comply with a House committee investigation because Trump is claiming executive privilege. Bannon is one of only top Trump aides who was summoned on September 23, not working for the Trump administration on January 6.
The lawmakers said in a statement that two other aides, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Pentagon aide Kash Patel, are “engaged” with the committee.
Remus wrote that Biden has determined that invoking executive privilege is “not in the best interest of the United States.” The House panel had sought records, which included information about communications within the White House under Trump and planning and funding for rallies held in Washington. Among those events was a rally near the White House on the morning of January 6 that featured remarks from Trump, who protested Biden’s victory over a crowd of thousands.
Remus wrote that the documents “shed light on events within the White House on and about January 6, and on the need for the Select Committee to understand the facts underlying the most serious attack on federal government operations since the Civil War.” are based.”
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter Friday. This was first reported by NBC News.
Trump responded with his own letter to the National Archives, formally claiming the privilege on nearly 50 documents.
Referring to the Presidential Records Act, Trump wrote, “I make a protective claim of constitutionally based privilege with respect to all additional records.” He added that if the committee considers the privileged information if it asks for other information, “I will take all necessary and reasonable steps to protect the office of the President.”
A unique clash ensues in the investigation, which pits the current administration against its predecessor. As Biden now takes over the presidency, he will call on some of Trump’s claims of privilege. And while Biden has accommodated earlier requests from Congress, the White House has said it will review the new claims “on a case-by-case basis.”
The final word may not rest with Biden, but the courts, if Trump decides to prosecute — which is expected — or if the House votes to hold any of the witnesses in contempt of Congress. In a case of contempt of the House, the Justice Department will then decide whether to prosecute.
If Trump were to win a case for blocking the documents, it would be a dramatic extension of unwritten executive power. But he is expected to have an uphill battle, as the courts have traditionally left questions of executive privilege to the current occupant of the White House.
6 panel leaders, Democratic Rep. Benny Thompson of Mississippi and Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, said in a statement Friday that “we will not allow any witnesses to disobey a valid subpoena or attempt to run the clock.” . . , and we will swiftly consider pursuing criminal contempt of Congress referral.”
The committee’s summons set a Thursday deadline for Bannon, Meadows, Patel and the fourth witness, former White House communications aide Dan Scavino, to provide the documents. He also set interview dates for next week. Kash said in a statement that “I can confirm that I have responded to the summons in a timely manner” but would not elaborate. A spokesman for the committee declined to comment on whether Scavino was cooperating.
In a September 23 letter to Bannon, the committee said it had been in contact with Trump in the weeks before the attack, urging him to focus his efforts on reversing the January 6 election, when Congress certifies electoral votes. Is. The letter mentions that Bannon was quoted as saying on January 5 that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, said in a letter to the panel on October 7 that until the privilege issues are resolved, “we are unable to respond to your requests for documents and testimony.” Costello wrote that Bannon is prepared to “follow the directions of the courts” when they rule.
Costello’s letter includes excerpts from a separate letter to Bannon by Trump’s lawyer, Justin Clark. Clark says that documents and testimony provided to the January 6 panel may include information that is “potentially protected from disclosure by executive and other privileges, including presidential communications, deliberative processes, among others.” and attorney client privileges.”
The committee has summoned 13 other persons linked to the January 6 plan and set a deadline for documents and interviews later this month.
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Ben Fox and Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.