Biden rejects Trump’s efforts to shield White House visitor logs
▶ Watch Video: Rep. Adam Kinzinger weighs in on January 6 investigation
Washington — President Biden has rejected claims of executive privilege asserted by former President Donald Trump over White House visitor logs sought by the House panel investigating the January 6 assault on the Capitol and ordered the National Archives and Records Administration to turn the records over to investigators.
CBS News obtained a February 15 letter from White House counsel Dana Remus to David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, notifying him that Mr. Biden determined 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.”
The New York Times first reported the letter from Remus.
Remus said the records at issue are entries in visitor logs that show appointment information for people permitted to enter the White House complex, including on January 6, 2021. Trump made claims of executive privilege over a subset of the documents and portions of the records, shielding their release, but Remus told Ferriero that Mr. Biden does not uphold those assertions.
“As a matter of policy, and subject to limited exceptions, the Biden administration voluntarily discloses such visitor logs on a monthly basis. The Obama administration followed the same practice,” she wrote. “The majority of the entries over which the former president has asserted executive privilege would be publicly released under current policy. As practice under that policy demonstrates, preserving the confidentiality of this type of record generally is not necessary to protect long-term institutional interests of the Executive Branch.”
Citing the “urgency of the select committee’s need for the information,” Remus said the president instructs the Archives, which holds the records from the Trump White House, to turn over the documents to the panel 15 days after notifying Trump unless barred from doing so by a court.
It’s unclear whether Trump would mount a legal battle to stop the release of the entries to the select committee. An earlier attempt by the former president to block the Archives from releasing more than 700 pages of his White House records after Mr. Biden decided not to uphold assertions of executive privilege was rejected by the Supreme Court. The committee received the documents last month.
The Archives also said earlier this month it will release records from Vice President Mike Pence to the select committee after Mr. Biden rejected Trump’s efforts to block their release. The former president made a claim of privilege over “communications concerning the former Vice President’s responsibilities as President of the Senate in certifying the vote of presidential electors on January 6, 2021,” according to a February 1 letter from Remus.
The committee examining the events surrounding the January 6 attack on the Capitol has interviewed more than 475 witnesses and obtained over 60,000 documents, according to an aide to the panel.
Investigators have issued dozens of subpoenas as part of their probe, including ones to Trump’s allies, former White House officials, campaign aides and individuals involved in the planning of the rally outside the White House before the Capitol building came under siege. Two top Trump allies, Steve Bannon and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, have been held in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas, and the Justice Department has charged Bannon. Both cited Trump’s claims of privilege for not complying.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois who sits on the panel, told “Face the Nation” on Sunday he expects the committee will begin public hearings in the spring or summer.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created the House select committee last year earlier this year to investigate the January 6 attack, when thousands of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol as Congress counted state electoral votes, a largely ceremonial final step affirming Mr. Biden’s victory. Lawmakers were sent fleeing amid the riot, which led to the deaths of five people and the arrests of hundreds more. Trump, who encouraged his supporters to “walk over” to the Capitol during the rally at the Ellipse before the electoral vote count, was impeached by the House one week later for inciting the riot but was later acquitted by the Senate.