Joe Biden has blocked an attempt by former US President Donald Trump to withhold documents from Congress related to the January 6 insurgency on Capitol Hill.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Biden authorized the National Archives, a government agency that holds archives from the Trump era, to turn over a first batch of documents requested by a select committee of the House of Representatives investigating the riot.
“The president is determined to ensure that such a thing never happens again, which is why the administration is cooperating with ongoing investigations,” he added. Psaki told reporters. “The President has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not warranted for the first set of Trump White House documents provided to us by the National Archives.”
A host of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an unsuccessful effort to prevent the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory, killing five. More than 600 people are now facing criminal charges stemming from the riot.
In August, a select House committee investigating the insurgency requested various documents, including communications within the White House under Trump, his travel and communications that day, and information on planning and funding for the insurgency. rallies held in Washington.
Trump’s legal team has sought to deflect some of the claims by invoking executive privilege, a legal doctrine that protects the confidentiality of certain communications between White House officials.
But in a letter to the US Archivist, White House attorney Dana Remus wrote “these are unique and extraordinary circumstances” and the documents “shed light on the events at the White House. on and around January 6 and focus on the Select Committee’s Need to Understand the Facts Underlying the Most Serious Attack on Federal Government Operations Since the Civil War ”.
The ruling, which affects only the first batch of documents reviewed by the White House, sets up a potential confrontation with Trump, who has repeatedly downplayed the events of January 6 and sought to re-qualify the rioters as “patriots.” . The Guardian said it plans to take legal action to prevent disclosure of the documents if necessary.
On Friday, the former president responded with a letter to the National Archives formally claiming executive privilege on around 50 documents requested by the select committee.
Trump’s letter stated: “In cases like this, where Congress has refused to allow sufficient time for a full review, there is a long bipartisan tradition of protective assertions of executive privilege designed to ensure the ability to make a final assertion of privilege, if necessary. , on all or part of the requested material.
The ex-president added in a statement that “radical left Democrats” “are once again trying to use Congress to persecute their political opponents.” He claimed, without evidence, that the January 6 committee “is about using the power of government to silence ‘Trump’ and our Make America Great Again movement, the greatest success of all time.”
He said: “This is another big distraction because Biden and the Democrats don’t want you to see how America is losing because of their incompetence.”
Trump spent weeks leading up to January 6 pushing “the big lie” about a stolen election and urged the crowd that day to “fight like hell.” A Senate Judiciary Committee report this week detailed his efforts to pressure the Justice Department to overturn the election result in his favor.
Legal experts say his efforts to block the Jan.6 documents would be unlikely to succeed.
During the White House press conference, Psaki noted, “What this committee is studying is not the normal course of government business… This committee is investigating a dark day in our democracy…. This context is important here too.
Trump’s main allies have also vowed not to cooperate with the select committee. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Thursday said he would not comply with a subpoena issued last month.
Bannon attorney Robert Costello wrote in a letter to the committee that Bannon would refuse to comply due to Trump’s claim that he can invoke executive privilege to block Bannon’s testimony.
The committee responded on Friday with a threat of criminal contempt charges against Bannon. Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney, who head the committee, said in a joint statement: “While the select committee welcomes the good faith engagement with witnesses seeking to cooperate with our investigation, we will not allow any witnesses to defy a legal subpoena or attempt to show up. 24 hours a day, and we will quickly consider advancing a criminal referral for contempt of Congress. “
They added that two other witnesses called by the panel, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Pentagon aide Kash Patel, “are engaging” with the committee. The status of a fourth witness, Trump’s former communications assistant Dan Scavino, remains unclear.
An effort by the committee to charge witnesses in contempt would likely involve a vote of the entire House and a referral to the Department of Justice.
Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary, tweeted: “Any legal move to claim executive privilege for the assistants of the former president is against existing law and should be prosecuted as an obstruction of justice. It is a crime in public view right now.