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Biden won't assert executive privilege for Trump White House documents from January 6

Biden declines Trump request to withhold records
Biden declines Trump request to withhold records 01:47

Washington — President Biden has rejected former President Trump's assertion of executive privilege for the first set of Trump White House documents requested by January 6 select committee

The White House said it would give the panel access to federal records connected to the Trump White House and the January 6 insurrection, the Biden administration announced Friday.

In a letter to the archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, White House counsel Dana Remus wrote that Mr. 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."

The House January 6 select committee requested the documents from the National Archives in August, including all "documents and communications relating in any way to remarks made by Donald Trump or any other persons on January 6."

Attorneys representing Mr. Trump had asked that the documents be withheld from the committee under the assertion of privilege, arguing that documents and communications related to a sitting president should be shielded from public oversight.

But citing what it described as these "unique and extraordinary circumstances," the White House said, "Congress has a compelling understand the circumstances that led to these horrific events."

"The Documents shed light on events within the White House on and about January 6 and bear on the Select Committee's need to understand the facts," the letter reads. 

The National Archives said it received the White House letter but declined further comment. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that Mr. Biden "believes it to be the utmost importance for the American people to have a complete understanding of the events of that day to prevent them from happening again."

But she also noted that evaluating requests for privilege would take place on a case-by-case basis. It's "an ongoing process, and this is just the first set of documents," she told reporters.

The decision clears the way for the National Archives to release a trove of documents to the House committee. In August it issued a sweeping request to NARA and seven federal agencies. The request called for executive branch records pertaining to strategies to derail the Electoral College vote, planning for rallies leading up to January 6, as well as documents and communications related to what the former president knew about the election results and potential plans to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. 

Mr. Trump, who argued that executive privilege should be invoked in response to the committee's request, said he, too, sent a letter to the National Archives "in defense of the Office of the Presidency."

"The Radical Left Democrats tried the RUSSIA Witch Hunt, they tried the fake impeachments, and now they are trying once again to use Congress to persecute their political opponents," Mr. Trump said. "The Democrats are drunk on power, but this dangerous assault on our Constitution and important legal precedent will not work." 

The Biden administration's decision was made public soon after a former top adviser of Mr. Trump, Steve Bannon, said he would not comply with a subpoena from the committee, citing executive privilege.  

Bo Erickson contributed to this report.

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