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WASHINGTON (AP) — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol has agreed to defer its request for hundreds of pages of records from the Trump administration, bending to the wishes of the Biden White House.
The deferral is in response to concerns by the Biden White House that releasing all the Trump administration documents sought by the committee could compromise national security and executive privilege.
President Joe Biden has repeatedly rejected former President Donald Trump’s blanket efforts to cite executive privilege to block the release of documents surrounding that day. But Biden’s White House is still working with the committee to shield some documents from being turned over.
Trump is appealing to the Supreme Court to try to block the National Archives and Records Administration, which maintains custody of the documents from his time in office, from giving them to the committee.
The agreement to keep some Trump-era records away from the committee is memorialized in a Dec. 16 letter from the White House counsel’s office. It mostly shields records that do not involve the events of Jan. 6 but were covered by the committee’s sweeping request for documents from the Trump White House about the events of that day.
Dozen of pages created Jan. 6 don’t pertain to the assault on the Capitol. Other documents involve sensitive preparations and deliberations by the National Security Council. Biden’s officials were worried that if those pages were turned over to Congress, that would set a troublesome precedent for the executive branch, no matter who is president.
Still other documents are highly classified and the White House asked Congress to work with the federal agencies that created them to discuss their release.
“The documents for which the Select Committee has agreed to withdraw or defer its request do not appear to bear on the White House’s preparations for or response to the events of January 6, or on efforts to overturn the election or otherwise obstruct the peaceful transfer of power,” White House deputy counsel Jonathan Su wrote in one of two letters to the committee obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
Su wrote that for the committee, withholding the documents “should not compromise its ability to complete its critical investigation expeditiously.”
For the last several months the National Archives has been transmitting tranches of documents to the White House and to lawyers for Trump to determine whether they contain any privileged information. Trump has raised both broad objections to the release of the documents as well as specific concerns about particular documents.
The National Archives has said that the records Trump wants to block include presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts, handwritten notes “concerning the events of January 6” from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows, and “a draft Executive Order on the topic of election integrity.”
Biden has repeatedly rejected Trump’s claims of executive privilege over those documents, including in a letter sent Dec. 23 regarding about 20 pages of documents.