By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden has rejected former President Donald Trump’s executive privilege claims and ordered White House visitor logs to be released to the panel investigating the deadly Jan. 6, 2021 attack, according to a letter released on Wednesday.
In a letter to the National Archives, Biden’s White House counsel granted congressional investigators access to the data given the urgency of their work probing Trump supporters’ violent siege at the U.S. Capitol last year, and ordered the agency to turn over the logs within 15 days.
“The President 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 these records and portions of records,” Biden counsel Dana Remus wrote in the letter dated Feb. 15.
Representatives for Trump, a Republican, did not respond to a request for comment.
Biden, a Democrat, last year also rejected Trump’s bid to block the U.S. House of Representatives Jan. 6 committee from accessing batches of documents from the former president’s time at the White House. Federal courts also rejected Trump’s lawsuit seeking to withhold the records.
Remus in the letter said the logs of those who visited the White House before Trump left on Jan. 20, 2021, should be handed over quickly “in light of the urgency” of the committee’s work and Congress’ “compelling need.”
“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,” Remus wrote.
Representatives for the White House did not respond to a request for any additional comment beyond the letter.
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) told Trump in a letter on Wednesday that unless a court intervenes it would turn over the logs on March 3, the same day it is scheduled to provide former Vice President Mike Pence’s records.
Separately on Wednesday, the founder of a right-wing militia group charged with seditious conspiracy over his alleged role in organizing the Jan. 6 attack is set to appear in court, seeking to be released from jail while he awaits trial. [nL1N2UQ1J3]
So far, more than 725 people have been charged with playing a role in the attack that left five people dead and more than 100 police officers injured. Another four police officers involved in defending the Capitol later committed suicide.
The Jan. 6 committee has made 81 subpoenas public, including those issued to top Trump aides and allies, and interviewed more than 560 witnesses. It has also sought records from social media and other telecommunications firms.
On Tuesday, it subpoenaed six people who had knowledge of or participated in unsuccessful efforts to send false “alternate electors” to Washington for Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
Trump has repeatedly blasted the committee’s investigation and decried the November 2020 election, which he lost to Biden by more than 7 million ballots and by 74 votes in the Electoral College.
Trump, who has teased a potential presidential run in 2024 but not formally declared his candidacy, could again file suit seeking to block the release of the visitor logs, which he sought to block in a Jan. 31 letter to the Archives.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month, however, rejected https://reut.rs/3IauWrr Trump’s early attempt to withhold documents in a near-unanimous decision, with only one of the top court’s nine justices objecting.
(Addditional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Writing Susan HeaveyEditing by Chizu Nomiyama, Paul Simao and Mark Porter)
Source : Reuters