The White House has informed the National Archives that it is not asserting executive privilege on an initial batch of documents related to the January 6 violence at the US Capitol, paving the way for the National Archives to share documents with the House committee investigating the attempted insurrection.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday afternoon that President Joe Biden declined to assert privilege over documents pertaining to former President Donald Trump’s administration sought by the January 6 select committee. During the White House press briefing, Psaki said that “the President has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not warranted for the first set of documents from the Trump White House that have been provided to us by the National Archives.”
“As we’ve said previously, this will be an ongoing process and this is just the first set of documents,” she said. “And we will evaluate questions of privilege on a case-by-case basis, but the President has also been clear that he believes it to be of the utmost importance for both Congress and the American people to have a complete understanding of the events of that day to prevent them from happening again.”
The National Archives has already identified documents in response to the committee request and shared them with the Trump legal team and the White House, according to a source familiar with the matter. NBC was first to report on the White House’s decision.
In a letter to the David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, White House counsel Dana Remus writes that the decision to not assert executive privilege applies to an initial tranche of documents that were provided to the White House and Trump’s attorneys in September. Remus writes that there are other documents the National Archives has provided to the White House for review and a decision about invoking executive privilege on those documents has not yet been made.
Remus wrote in the letter that the request comes amid “unique and extraordinary circumstances.”
“Congress is examining an assault on our Constitution and democratic institutions provoked and fanned by those sworn to protect them, and the conduct under investigation extends far beyond typical deliberations concerning the proper discharge of the President’s constitutional responsibilities,” Remus wrote. “The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield, from Congress or the public, information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself.”
The letter concluded: “We understand that the former President believes that executive privilege should be asserted with respect to a subset of the Documents. When you notify us of such an assertion, we will respond accordingly.”
The House select committee has launched a sweeping investigation into January 6. As part of that, the panel has sent requests for information to a number of federal agencies, including the National Archives, the custodian of the Trump administration White House records.
The committee asked for “all documents and communications within the White House” on that day, including call logs, schedules and meetings with top officials and outside advisers, including Rudy Giuliani.
The White House indicated last month that Biden did not expect to assert executive privilege to shield those records from being seen by the committee.
“We take this matter incredibly seriously,” Psaki said during a press briefing on September 24. “The President has already concluded that it would not be appropriate to assert executive privilege.”
In August, Trump threatened to invoke executive privilege in an effort to block the House select committee from obtaining the massive tranche of documents it has demanded from several US government agencies, despite his successor having the ultimate say over whether the information can be shared.
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