US President Joe Biden will not block a tranche of documents demanded by a House of Representatives committee investigation into the January 6 uprising at the US Capitol, setting off a showdown with former President Donald Trump, who has tried to keep his records. has promised. Time to be handed over to investigators in the White House.
In a letter to the archivist for the United States, White House counsel Dana Remus writes that Mr Biden has determined that invoking executive privilege is “not in the best interest of the United States.” It comes days after Trump’s lawyers sought to block the testimony of former Trump officials for the House committee, citing executive privilege. On Friday, a lawyer for Steve Bannon said the former White House aide would not comply with a House committee investigation because of Mr Trump’s claim.
In August, the House committee investigating the January uprising at the Capitol asked for a range of records, including communications within the White House under Mr. Trump and information about planning and funding for rallies held in Washington. Among those events was a rally near the White House that featured remarks from Mr Trump, drawing on a crowd of thousands before loyalists stormed the Capitol.
In the letter, Ms Remus writes that the documents reviewed “highlighted events within the White House and around 6 January and the need for the select committee to understand the facts underlying the most serious attack on the operations of the federal government.” Based on the Civil War.”
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter Friday.
Copies of the documents responding to the request were handed over to Biden’s White House and Mr Trump’s lawyers to review potential executive privilege concerns in accordance with federal law and the executive order governing the president’s records.
The committee’s 10-page request sought “all documents and communications within the White House on January 6, 2021” relating to Mr Trump’s close advisers and family members, the rally in nearby Ellipse and Mr Trump’s Twitter feed Is. It calls for his specific activities that day and communication, if any, from the White House Situation Room. Along with the claims of electoral fraud, all documents related to the Supreme Court’s decisions on the subject have also been sought.
Mr Biden’s decision affects only the initial batch of documents reviewed by the White House. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said subsequent determinations would be made on a case-by-case basis.
The incumbent president has final authority unless a court orders the archives to take a different action. Mr Trump has not formally sought to impose executive privileges on the documents, although that action is expected soon.
Mr Trump is expected to take legal action to block the release of the documents, which, if granted, would be a dramatic extension of unwritten executive power. Mr Trump will have an uphill battle, as courts have traditionally left questions of executive privilege up to the current White House occupant – although the former president’s challenges could delay the committee’s investigation.
Two other witnesses summoned by the panel, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Pentagon aide Kash Patel, with the committee “engaged,” according to Representative Liz, the Democratic chairman of Mississippi Representative Benny Thompson and Republican vice-chairwoman, Representative Liz. ” Huh. Cheney of Wyoming. Mr Thompson and Ms Cheney issued a statement on Friday after the document submission deadline passed.
“While the Select Committee welcomes goodwill engagement with witnesses willing to cooperate with our investigation, we will not allow any witness to disobey a valid subpoena or attempt to run the clock, and we will swiftly approach Congress.” Will consider pursuing criminal contempt. referral,” said the two lawmakers.
A spokesman for the panel declined to comment on the condition of the fourth witness, former Trump communications aide Dan Scavino.
Mr Bannon’s move sets the stage for a possible confrontation with House Democrats, who are probing the roles of Mr Trump and his aides in the riots, when a large crowd of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol as Congress testified. The results of the presidential election were won by Democrat Joe Biden. The committee is increasingly issuing summons to individuals who are either linked to Mr Trump or who helped plan the massive rally on the morning of 6 January, at which he called on his supporters to “fight like hell”. Said.
Mr Bannon’s refusal to comply, and a resolution to prosecute Trump’s testimony, would mean some delay in the panel’s investigation. But committee members, many of whom served as prosecutors on Mr Trump’s two impeachments, were up to the possibility and repeatedly threatened to accuse witnesses of contempt. Mr Trump often successfully contested the testimony of witnesses during his presidency, but now his legal position may be weakened as he is out of office.
A committee effort to charge witnesses with contempt would likely involve a full House vote and a referral to the US Department of Justice. Then it will be up to the justice how to proceed with the charges.
Mr Bannon’s lawyer, Robert Costello, said in a letter to the panel dated 7 October that until the privilege issues are resolved, “we are unable to respond to your requests for documents and testimony.”
Mr Costello wrote that Mr Bannon, Mr Trump’s former aide who had contact with him in the week of the Capitol attack, is ready to “follow the directions of the courts” as they rule on the issue.
The letter includes excerpts from a separate letter sent to Mr Bannon by Mr Trump’s lawyer Justin Clark. Mr Clark says documents and testimony provided to the January 6 panel may include information that is “potentially protected from disclosure by executive and other privileges, including other presidential communications, deliberative processes and attorney- Includes client privileges.”
Mr Clarke wrote to Mr Bannon that “President Trump stands ready to defend these fundamental privileges in court.”
Spokesmen for Mr Trump did not return messages seeking comment. Mr Trump said in a statement last month that he would “fight subpoenas on executive privilege and other grounds for the good of our country.”
Mr Bannon summoned on 23 September is the only one of the top Trump aides who was not working for the Trump administration on 6 January. It is not clear whether it will affect their position if the matter goes to the courts.
Mr Patel said in a statement that he would “continue to tell the American people the truth about January 6” but did not say whether he would follow through. Mr Scavino and Mr Meadows’ aide did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The issue could become even more complicated as Mr Trump is no longer in office. As a former president, he cannot directly claim the privilege of keeping witnesses silent or keeping documents out of the hands of Congress. As the current president, Mr. Biden will have a say in the matter.
The select committee to investigate the January 6 attacks has issued more than a dozen summons to people linked to the plans for the January 6th protests, including three additional witnesses announced on Thursday. Those individuals would be less likely to be helped by Mr Trump’s executive privilege claims, as he did not work for the White House and most of them did not have regular contact with Mr Trump.
Mr Thompson, chairman of the committee, said that additional summons were to Ali Abdul Akbar, also known as Ali Alexander, and Nathan Martin, as well as the organization “Stop the Steel” to learn more about plans for a rally on the Capitol. was to. grounds at the same time as the large gathering on the National Mall. The committee had earlier summoned 11 other people associated with the planning of the big rally.
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