White House orders release of Trump records to Jan. 6 committee
The White House has ordered presidential record keepers to release a trove of Trump-era documents to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, arguing unique circumstances compel their disclosure.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday the administration would back the committee’s sweeping efforts.
“As a part of this process, the president has determined 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,” Psaki said.
“This is just the first set of documents, and we will evaluate claims of privilege on a case by case basis, but the president has also been clear 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.”
Her comments confirm earlier reporting from NBC News, which obtained a letter from White House counsel Dana Remus to the National Archives.
“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 wrote, according to the outlet.
“These are unique and extraordinary circumstances,” Remus added. “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. 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.”
Psaki emphasized on Friday that the tranche of documents released to the committee is only the first and that White House would evaluate further requests on a case-by-case basis.
She also declined to offer specific details on the documents themselves, saying only that they are Trump-era White House records responsive to the Jan. 6 select committee’s request to the National Archives.
The Sept. 25 request from the committee asks for documents and communications from within the White House “relating in any way” to former first lady Melania Trump; three of the former president’s children, Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr.; son-in-law Jared Kushner; as well as any member of Congress or Hill staffers.
The letter also asks for the National Archives to turn over communications with all of President Trump’s top aides, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Hope Hicks, Stephen Miller and Kayleigh McEnany.
The Jan. 6 panel is also seeking White House communications with other key names in Trump’s orbit, including Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Trump’s onetime attorney Rudy Giuliani and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.
The decision from the White House could tee up yet another executive privilege battle with Trump, who has already threatened to sue in order to block four former aides who have been subpoenaed by the committee — a group that includes Bannon and Meadows.
Trump sent a letter to the National Archives on Friday saying he wanted to assert executive privilege to prevent the committee from obtaining more than 40 of the documents it requested, saying he had determined the records “contain information subject to executive privilege, including presidential communications and deliberate process privileges.”
In a statement, Trump also accused Democrats of being “drunk on power” and launching a “fake investigation” designed to silence him.
Psaki hinted two weeks ago the White House may make such a determination, telling reporters, Biden “has already concluded that it would not be appropriate to assert executive privilege and so we will respond promptly to these questions as they arise and certainly as they come up from Congress.”
In other cases, the National Archives has not released some documents sought by lawmakers, including for a report from the Senate Judiciary Committee released Thursday that examines Trump’s pressure campaign on the Justice Department.
In that case, the National Archives has not turned over documents relating to communications between White House and Justice Department officials between Nov. 3 and Jan. 20. The committee requested these documents in May.
“NARA has not responded to date, and has represented to the Committee that the delay in transitioning electronic Trump records from the White House to NARA may prevent the Committee from obtaining a response for several more months,” the report states.
A representative for the National Archives said it has received the request and would respond to it in accordance with rules governing presidential records but did not offer further information on the delay or a time frame.
Brett Samuels contributed. Updated at 6:32 p.m.