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Jan. 6 panel reaches deal with White House to defer some document requests

Just last week, former President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court to block the National Archives from turning over records from his time in the White House to the committee.
Supporters of President Donald Trump protest inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Supporters of President Donald Trump protest inside the Capitol on Jan. 6.Brent Stirton / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot has reached an agreement with the White House to defer its request for hundreds of records from the Trump administration.

President Joe Biden had opted not to invoke executive privilege on behalf of former President Donald Trump for many documents the committee sought, but the latest agreement shows there were some that he was not willing to turn over.

The agreements "reflect the ongoing effort by the Executive and Legislative Branches to ensure that the Select Committee's legitimate needs are accommodated while preserving important Executive Branch prerogatives, such as the need for confidentiality in presidential decision-making," White House deputy counsel Jonathan Su wrote in a letter to the committee dated Dec. 16.

The agreement mostly shields records that do not involve the events of Jan. 6 but were covered by the committee’s request for documents from the Trump White House about the events of that day.

“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,” Su said.

Su wrote that for the committee, withholding the documents “should not compromise its ability to complete its critical investigation expeditiously.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the House committee said it "welcomes President Biden’s decision to clear the way for the production of another set of records" and "has agreed to defer action on certain records as part of the accommodations process."

"The Select Committee has not withdrawn its request for these records and will continue to engage with the executive branch to ensure the committee gets access to all the information relevant to our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,” the statement said.

Trump responded on Wednesday by characterizing the deferral as a win for him, while reiterating his criticism of the House panel and the focus of its probe.

The committee requested documents in March and August from the National Archives that it said were related to the Trump administration's actions before, during and after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, when a group of Trump's supporters attacked the building, trying to block his electoral defeat. Trump notified the National Archives that he asserted executive privilege.

Biden, however, concluded that the privilege should not apply. He moved forward with authorizing the National Archives to turn over an initial batch of documents that fell under a broad category requested by the committee, covering Trump’s actions and communications on Jan. 6, including his rally at The Ellipse on White House grounds and subsequent meetings and communications throughout the day.

Last week, Trump asked the Supreme Court to block the National Archives from turning over records from his time in the White House to the committee.

The lower courts moved quickly earlier this month to hear Trump's lawsuit, but his lawyers told the Supreme Court there's no rush given that the next congressional meeting to count electoral votes is more than three years away.