Tue. May 17th, 2022

WASHINGTON – The White House on Friday formally blocked an attempt by former President Donald Trump to withhold congressional documents regarding the January 6 attack on the Capitol and set up a legal showdown between current and former presidents over executive privilege.

In a letter to the National Archives obtained by NBC News, White House Counsel Dana Remus rejected an attempt by Trump’s lawyers to withhold documents requested by the House Select Committee regarding the then president’s activities on January 6, writing that “President Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States and is therefore not substantiated in any of the documents. “

“These are unique and extraordinary circumstances,” Remus added. “Congress is investigating an attack on our constitution and democratic institutions that has been provoked and waved by those who have sworn to protect them, and the behavior being investigated goes far beyond typical considerations of properly fulfilling the president’s constitutional responsibilities. The constitutional protections of executive privileges should not be used to shield information from Congress or the public that reflects a clear and apparent effort to undermine the Constitution itself. ”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had telegraphed the action two weeks ago, saying President Joe Biden had already concluded that it would not be appropriate to assert executive privilege in connection with January 6 requests. But White House officials added that they had not yet done so in response to requests from the select committee, and would make any case-by-case decisions.

The White House is now authorizing the National Archives to hand over a preliminary batch of documents that fell into a broad category requested by the committee, covering Trump’s actions and communications on Jan. 6, including his rally in The Ellipse because of the White House. House, and subsequent meetings and communication during the day.

This request searched for everything from Twitter messages, phone and visitor logs, and all videos and photos of events he attended. It also included documents and communications related to the then Vice President Mike Pence’s movements and security and virtually all other documents referring to rally at The Ellipse and the subsequent violent riots in the Capitol, as well as planning around the ceremonial event with the counting of electoral votes during a joint session of Congress.

According to a source familiar with the matter, the National Archives immediately began scrubbing records in its possession after objects responding to the committee’s request issued in August. It has regularly produced relevant documents for both Trump’s legal representatives and the Biden White House since then. The specific batch of the documents in question was originally submitted to both parties on 8 September.

A White House official could not characterize what specific documents are included in this set, other than to say that they will shed light on certain events in the White House on January 6th. They said Trump’s representatives concluded that executive privilege should be asserted on some, but not all, documents. But Biden has concluded that privilege does not pertain to any of the records.

Remus says in his letter that the White House continues to review other materials the archives have provided since then and will respond “at an appropriate time.”

Under federal law, former presidents ask the current president to withhold all documents created under previous administrations that are in the possession of the National Archives. Trump’s next step would be to sue the archives, but he faces long legal odds.

The courts have never definitively stated how much authority former presidents have to assert the privilege when they are out of office. But in practical terms, the views of the current president carry considerable weight. The Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that the incumbent president “is in the best position to assess the current and future needs of the Executive Branch.”

Moreover, the privilege is not absolute. Courts use a balancing test to determine whether it should apply.

The Supreme Court also said that the privilege is limited to communication “in the performance of [a president’s] responsibility, ”which may not cover discussions on how to get the Ministry of Justice to undermine confidence in the election results.

Pete Williams the contribution.

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