WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden does not plan to invoke executive privilege to block information Congress is seeking about former president Donald Trump or his aides regarding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the White House said Friday, a move that could provide answers to some of the remaining questions surrounding the insurrection.
Trump has said he will cite “executive privilege” to block information requests from the House select committee investigating the events of that day, banking on a legal theory that has successfully allowed presidents and their aides to avoid or delay congressional scrutiny for decades, including during the Trump administration.
Biden, however, probably plans to share that information with Congress if asked, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday.
“The president has already concluded that it would not be appropriate to assert executive privilege,” Psaki said. “And so we will respond promptly to these questions as they arise and certainly as they come up from Congress.”
She added the White House has already been working closely with congressional committees and others “as they work to get to the bottom of what happened on Jan. 6th, an incredibly dark day in our democracy.”
Psaki also noted that no one from Trump’s team has reached out to the Biden administration to formally request that Biden use executive privilege to block information requests from the Jan. 6 select committee.
“We don’t get regular outreach from the former president or his team, I think it’s safe to assume,” she said. “I would say that we take this matter seriously.”
Biden’s decision could have significant political and legal ramifications. Members of the investigative committee argue that Trump no longer enjoys the protection of executive privilege, encouraging the White House to push aside institutional concerns about sharing information with Congress and aid the panel in an investigation focused on what Democrats and a handful of Republicans have called an assault on democracy.
Trump has derided the committee’s work as partisan and is promising to fight its effort to collect information and testimony related to the attack.
“The highly partisan, Communist-style ‘select committee’ has put forth an outrageously broad records request that lacks both legal precedent and legislative merit,” Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said in a statement Thursday. “Executive privilege will be defended, not just on behalf of President Trump and his administration, but also on behalf of the Office of the President of the United States and the future of our nation.”
On Friday, Psaki said Biden would lean toward disclosing information, but stopped short of saying it was a blanket policy.
“It’s an eye to not asserting executive privilege. And obviously, some of this is predicting what we don’t know yet, but that is certainly his overarching view,” she said.
Asked if there was something that they would not turn over to Congress, Psaki said she did not want to “get ahead of a hypothetical.”
“What’s important for people to know and understand is that’s the principle through which we’re approaching this,” she said.
In response to the House panel’s request, the National Archives has already identified hundreds of pages of documents from the Trump White House relevant to its inquiry. As required by statute, the material is being turned over to the Biden White House and to Trump’s lawyers for review.
The committee’s Aug. 25 letter to the National Archives was both sweeping and detailed, asking for “all documents and communications within the White House on January 6, 2021, relating in any way” to the events of that day. They include examining whether the White House or Trump allies worked to delay or halt the counting of electoral votes and whether there was discussion of impeding the peaceful transfer of power.
The letter asked for call logs, schedules and meetings for a large group, including Trump’s adult children, son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and first lady Melania Trump as well as a host of aides and advisers, such as his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.
The committee has focused, in part, on seeking information about whether the Trump White House and members of Congress played any role in encouraging the demonstrations, which interrupted the constitutionally mandated confirmation of electoral votes and unleashed a series of violent confrontations with the U.S. Capitol Police.
So far, more than 650 people have been charged with crimes in connection with the violent demonstrations that delayed that vote. Many were charged with obstructing a federal procedure and for knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building. Documents and testimony could show whether White House officials and members of Congress encouraged or supported those actions, congressional staffers said.
The Washington Post’s Matt Viser contributed to this report.