President Joe Biden has decided not to assert executive privilege to hold back a trove of documents that the Jan. 6th select committee is seeking as part of its probe – concluding it is not in the country’s ‘best interests’ after the Capitol riot.
The move, telegraphed in advance by the White House, drew an immediate and angry response from former President Donald Trump, who suggested he might sue and attacked Democrats as ‘drunk on power.’
‘The Democrats are drunk on power, but this dangerous assault on our Constitution and important legal precedent will not work. This Committee’s fake investigation is not about January 6th any more than the Russia Hoax was about Russia. Instead, this is about using the power of the government to silence “Trump” and our Make America Great Again movement, the greatest such achievement of all time,’ Trump said in a Friday afternoon statement.
The former president wrote the National Archivist on his own stationary with the presidential seal in gold – anticipating how a court might ultimately sort through the rights of current vs. former presidents.
‘The Committee requested an extremely broad set of documents and records, potentially numbering in the millions, which unquestionably contain information protected from disclosure by the executive and other privileges, including but not limited to the presidential communications, deliberative process, and attorney-client privileges,’ he wrote.
Trump listed a raft of documents where he said are ‘subject to executive privilege.’
‘I hereby formally assert executive privilege over these records,’ the former president wrote.
He then said he makes a ‘protective assertion of constitutionally based privilege’ over all additional records being sought in the first committee request – a preliminary assertion in advance of a full review.
He ended with what looks like a legal threat. ‘Should the Committee persist in seeking other privileged information, I will take all necessary and appropriate steps to defend the Office of the Presidency,’ he wrote.
The White House authorized the National Archives, which holds the documents and received document requests from the panel, to turn them over, as the House panel plows ahead with its investigation.
‘The administration takes the events of January 6 incredibly seriously, as the President said on its six-month anniversary,’ said White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.
‘That day posed an existential crisis and a test of whether our democracy could survive. It was in many respects, a unique attack on the foundations of our democracy. The president’s dedicated to ensuring that something like that could never happen again, which is why the administration is cooperating with ongoing investigations including the January 6 Select Committee to bring to light what happened,’ she said at her daily press briefing.
‘That day posed an existential crisis and a test of whether our democracy could survive,’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, confirming the White House would not block Trump era documents from a House select committee probing Jan. 6th
Biden’s posture comes after the committee issued sweeping requests for documents, photographs, schedules and information about the events of January 6th. The panel has also subpoenaed four former top Trump administration aides and other individuals.
Trump’s lawyer instructed witnesses not to comply and that he intends to assert privilege.
Psaki said Friday the review had occurred, but kept her comments to a first batch of documents.
‘As a part of this process, 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 had been provided to us by the National Archives,’ she said.
President Biden could have asserted privilege, which might keep some documents under wraps for years at the Archives
Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) has issued subpoenas and requests for information
The panel has sought to serve former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino and former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon as part of its investigation. A Trump lawyer has told witnesses not to cooperate
‘We will evaluate questions of privilege on a case by case basis,’ she said. ‘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 at that day to prevent them from happening again.’
White House Counsel Dana Remus outlined the position in a letter 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,’ she said.
‘These are unique and extraordinary circumstances,’ Remus continued, according to NBC News, which obtained the letter.
‘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,’ she 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 House panel issued a statement Friday about subpoenas to four witnesses, after demanding they hand over information by midnight Thusday.
They indicated former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former DOD official Kash Patel were cooperating at some level.
‘While Mr. Meadows and Mr. Patel are, so far, engaging with the Select Committee, Mr. Bannon has indicated that he will try to hide behind vague references to privileges of the former President. The Select Committee fully expects all of these witnesses to comply with our demands for both documents and deposition testimony,’ the committee said.
‘Though the Select Committee welcomes good-faith engagement with witnesses seeking to cooperate with our investigation, we will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral.
‘We thank those many patriotic Americans who are coming forward voluntarily to participate in our inquiry. The Committee is making rapid progress and will not be deterred by those who seek to obstruct our efforts,’ the panel said.
Bannon’s lawyer, Robert Costello, wrote the committee and referenced Trump’s claim of privilege as former president. ‘It is therefore clear to us that since the executive privileges belong to President Trump, and he has, through his counsel, announced his intention to assert those executive privileges… we must accept his direction and honor his invocation of executive privilege,’ wrote Bannon’s attorney Robert Costello.