October 18. 2021. 5:11

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Biden blocks Trump attempt to keep files from January 6th investigation

Supporters of Donald Trump take over stands set up for the presidential inauguration as they protest at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Photograph: Getty Images


The White House has formally blocked an attempt by Donald Trump to withhold documents from Congress related to the January 6th attack on the US Capitol when he was president.

Mr Trump intended to assert executive privilege over an investigation into the insurrection, a move that could prevent the testimony of former aides, according to a letter on behalf of the former American president.

The letter went to at least some witnesses who were subpoenaed by the US house committee and it makes clear that Mr Trump plans to invoke privileges meant to protect presidential communications from being shared with congress, according to a source who has seen the document.

Mr Trump said last month that he would “fight the subpoenas on executive privilege and other grounds, for the good of our country”.

However, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said president Joe Biden had authorised the National Archives, a government agency that holds records from Trump’s time in office, to turn over an initial batch of documents requested by the US House of Representatives Select Committee investigating the riot.

“The president has determined an assertion of executive privilege isn’t warranted for the first set of documents from the Trump White House that have been provided to us by the National Archives,” Ms Psaki said. Executive privilege is a legal doctrine that protects the confidentiality of some communications between White House officials. Trump said the

Future political prospects

Mr Trump said the Biden administration was using the investigation to undercut his future political prospects. “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,” he said in a statement.

The congressional committee is issuing subpoenas to individuals who are either connected to Mr Trump or who helped plan the massive rally on the morning of January 6th at which he told his supporters to “fight like hell”.

The committee, which was formed over the summer, last month issued subpoenas to Mark Meadows, Mr Trump’s former chief of staff; Dan Scavino, the former deputy chief of staff for communications; Kashyap Patel, a former defence department official and Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser.

It is not immediately clear how those witnesses would respond to Mr Trump’s action or what consequences they might face if they refuse to cooperate.

Mr Patel said in a statement that he will “continue to tell the American people the truth about January 6”. It did not say whether he would comply.

Committee members have said they plan to try and move swiftly to obtain testimony and documents should any witnesses refuse to cooperate.

Democratic representative Adam Schiff tweeted that if the Trump associates do not comply, “they can be subject to criminal contempt”.

Charging the Trump associates with contempt could still be a lengthy process, including votes of the full house and potential court proceedings.

Because Mr Trump no longer is in office, he cannot directly assert privilege to keep witnesses quiet or documents out of the hands of congress. As the current president, Mr Biden will have some say in the matter.

Subpoenas

The committee has issued more than a dozen subpoenas to people linked to plans for the January 6th protests, including three additional witnesses announced on Thursday.

Those individuals would be less likely to get help from Mr Trump’s executive privilege claims, which would be limited to people who worked in the White House.

Committee chairman Bennie Thompson said subpoenas had gone to Ali Abdul Akbar, also known as Ali Alexander, and Nathan Martin, as well the organisation Stop the Steal, to learn more about a rally that was planned on the capitol grounds at the same time as the larger gathering on the National Mall.

The committee earlier subpoenaed 11 other individuals connected to the planning of that larger rally.

According to the committee, Mr Alexander released a statement after the riot linking Stop the Steal to the capitol rally permit and explaining that the intention was to direct attendees of the larger rally to march to the capitol.

The panel cited reports that Mr Alexander had made reference “to the possible use of violence to achieve the organisation’s goals” and had been in communication with the White House and members of Congress.

Mr Alexander has claimed legislators helped him plan the rally that led to the siege on the capitol. – Agencies