Jan. 6 Committee Shelves Requests for Hundreds of Trump Records
The Biden administration asked to shield some sensitive documents but continued to reject Trump’s blanket claim of executive privilege.,
The Biden administration asked to shield some sensitive documents but continued to reject Trump’s blanket claim of executive privilege.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has agreed to delay or withdraw demands for hundreds of Trump White House records at the request of the Biden administration, out of concern that releasing some of the documents could compromise national security.
The deal, made public on Tuesday, does not represent a major policy shift for the administration: President Biden still rejects former President Donald J. Trump’s claim that all internal White House documents pertaining to the riot be withheld on the grounds of executive privilege.
The White House counsel, Dana A. Remus, has been negotiating in recent weeks with the House committee to set aside requests for all or part of 511 documents her staff has deemed sensitive, unrelated to the probe or potentially compromising to the long-term prerogatives of the presidency.
The committee agreed to withdraw or defer its requests for documents that “do not appear to bear on the White House’s preparations for or response to the events of Jan. 6, or on efforts to overturn the election or otherwise obstruct the peaceful transfer of power,” wrote Jonathan C. Su, the White House deputy counsel, in an outline of the agreement between the committee and the administration drafted on Dec. 16.
The committee has requested many records that do not directly relate to the attacks, raising concerns in the West Wing and several federal agencies. The documents, Mr. Su wrote, include internal White House summaries of intelligence reports and briefing materials prepared for the principals’ committee of the National Security Council, the group that analyzes threat assessments and other sensitive materials for the president and his senior advisers.
Understand the U.S. Capitol Riot
On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.
What Happened: Here’s the most complete picture to date of what happened — and why.Timeline of Jan. 6: A presidential rally turned into a Capitol rampage in a critical two-hour time period. Here’s how.Key Takeaways: Here are some of the major revelations from The Times’s riot footage analysis.Death Toll: Five people died in the riot. Here’s what we know about them.Decoding the Riot Iconography: What do the symbols, slogans and images on display during the violence really mean?
Aides to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, the committee’s chairman, had previously agreed to withdraw a request for about 50 other documents, after Mr. Biden’s team flagged them for national security and executive privilege concerns.
The new agreement does not prevent the committee from making new requests, or trying to revive its requests for documents that have been previously shielded, Mr. Su made clear in his letter.
The committee agreed to shelve the requests “to clear the way for the production of another set of records,” said a spokesman for the panel, Tim Mulvey. “The committee has not withdrawn its request for these records and will continue to engage with the executive branch to ensure the committee gets access to all the information relevant to our probe.”
A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said the agreement reflected the back and forth between two jockeying branches of government, rather than any dissatisfaction in the administration with the widening scope of the inquiry.
In fact, the White House has taken pains to emphasize its continued opposition to Mr. Trump’s legal arguments. On Dec. 23, Ms. Remus reiterated her rejection of Mr. Trump’s blanket assertion of executive privilege in a letter to David S. Ferriero, the head of the National Archives, writing that “it is not in the best interests of the United States.”
Mr. Trump filed a federal lawsuit in October trying to block the archives from releasing any materials to Congress, calling the committee’s attempt to obtain records “nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition.” A federal appeals court ruled on Dec. 9 that Congress was entitled to see records related to the attack, and on Dec. 23, Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to take up the case.
News of the deal, reported earlier on Tuesday by The Associated Press, comes less than two weeks before the first anniversary of the attack, and at a moment when the committee is ramping up its pressure on recalcitrant Trump confidants, onetime administration officials and, most recently, the former president’s allies in Congress.
Just before Christmas, the committee asked Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, to meet with its investigators about his communications related to the run-up to the Capitol riot. Those exchanges include Mr. Jordan’s messages with Mr. Trump, the former president’s legal team and others involved in planning rallies on Jan. 6 and congressional objections to certifying the election results.
Key Figures in the Jan. 6 Inquiry
Michael Flynn. Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser attended an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18 in which participants discussed seizing voting machines and invoking certain national security emergency powers. Mr. Flynn has filed a lawsuit to block the panel’s subpoenas.
“We understand that you had at least one and possibly multiple communications with President Trump on Jan. 6,” Mr. Thompson wrote in a letter. “We would like to discuss each such communication with you in detail.”
Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and the vice chairwoman of the committee, has endorsed that approach, calling Mr. Jordan a “material witness” to the events of Jan. 6.
Mr. Jordan has said he will consider cooperating with the committee depending on its requests, though he also has called the panel a “sham.”
Representative Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican who is close to Mr. Jordan, recently rejected an invitation to voluntarily meet with the committee, calling the panel “illegitimate.”
The committee has been reluctant to issue subpoenas for sitting members of Congress, preferring to gather evidence from them through a voluntary process. But Mr. Thompson has pledged to take that step if needed.