President Biden waived executive privilege on an initial set of documents from the Trump White House sought by the select House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, setting up a furious battle with former President Trump, who said Democrats are “drunk on power.”
“The president has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not warranted for the first set of documents from the Trump White House that has been provided to us by the National Archives,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
But Mr. Trump sent a letter to the National Archives on Friday, asserting executive privilege over many of his documents.
“I hereby formally assert executive privilege over these records pursuant to the Presidential Records Act,” Mr. Trump wrote.
He said the select committee “requested an extremely broad set of documents and records, potentially numbering in the millions, which unquestionably contain information protected from disclosure by the executive and other privileges, including but not limited to the presidential communications, deliberative process, and attorney-client privileges.”
“Should the committee persist in seeking other privileged information, I will take all necessary and appropriate steps to defend the office of the presidency,” Mr. Trump wrote.
In a statement, Mr. Trump said Democrats are “drunk on power.”
“My administration, and the great patriots who worked on behalf of the American people, will not be intimidated,” Mr. Trump said. “We will not allow Biden or the radical Democrats to get off without accepting blame for their incompetence and failures.”
He said the probe “is also about trying to deflect blame from Biden’s surrender in Afghanistan and the failures to address COVID, the border, crime, and the economy that is leaving Americans dead or broke. It’s another grand distraction, because Biden and the Democrats don’t want you to see how badly America is losing due to their incompetence.”
The Trump legal team has sought to block some documents from the House investigators. But in a letter to the Archivist of the United States, White House counsel Dana Remus writes that Mr. Biden has determined that invoking executive privilege “is not in the best interests of the United States.”
Ms. Remus said the documents reviewed “shed light on events within the White House on and about Jan. 6 and bear on the Select Committee’s need to understand the facts underlying the most serious attack on the operations of the federal government since the Civil War.”
Mr. Trump’s lawyers said Thursday that the former president is asserting executive privilege to block demands for testimony and documents in the probe, setting up a likely court battle.
The White House‘s decision, which is being made on a case-by-case basis, paves the way for the National Archives to share Trump White House documents with the House select committee. The move applies only to an initial batch of documents sought by the panel.
Ms. Psaki said the attack on the Capitol “was in many respects a unique attack on the foundations of our democracy.”
“The president’s dedicated to ensuring that something like that could never happen again, which is why the administration is cooperating with ongoing investigations including the Jan. 6 Select Committee to bring to light what happened,” she said.
Ms. Psaki suggested the White House likely would waive privilege again for the investigators.
“We will evaluate questions of privilege on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “But the president has also been clear that he believes it to be of the utmost importance for both Congress and the American people to have a complete understanding of the events of that day to prevent them from happening again.”
Meanwhile, a lawyer for Steve Bannon says the former White House aide won’t comply with a subpoena from the committee because Mr. Trump is asserting executive privilege.
Two other witnesses subpoenaed by the panel, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Pentagon aide Kash Patel, are “engaging” with the committee, according to its Democratic chairman, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, and Republican vice chairwoman, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Mr. Thompson and Ms. Cheney issued a statement Friday after a deadline for document production had passed.
Mr. Trump said the investigation’s “dangerous assault on our Constitution and important legal precedent will not work.”
“This committee’s fake investigation is not about January 6th any more than the Russia Hoax was about Russia,” he said. “Instead, this is about using the power of the government to silence ‘Trump’ and our Make America Great Again movement, the greatest such achievement of all time. We won two elections, did far better in the second than the first, and now perhaps have to do it a third time!”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.