The bipartisan House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack is trying to collect as much information as possible, and not surprisingly, the panel has requested extensive materials from the White House. As regular readers know, this has created a predictable controversy.
Donald Trump, eager to hide as much information as possible, announced plans weeks ago to cite "executive privilege" to block the select committee's requests. As NBC News recently noted, as a matter of tradition, sitting presidents have shielded White House materials at the request of their predecessors.
But not this time. Three weeks ago, President Joe Biden and his team decided to formally block Trump's request to withhold documents from Congress. As NBC News reported overnight, the White House did it again yesterday.
The White House on Monday rejected another executive privilege request by former President Donald Trump over documents sought by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. In a letter obtained by NBC News, White House counsel Dana Remus told the National Archives that President Joe Biden has determined that Trump's effort to keep a new batch of Jan. 6 records out of Congress' hands "is not in the best interests of the United States."
This latest decision refers to a second batch of materials, which follow up on the first batch from a few weeks ago.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, it's worth reemphasizing that as far as the Biden White House is concerned, this is not a normal dispute over congressional oversight and document production.
"These are unique and extraordinary circumstances," Remus recently explained in correspondence with the National Archives. "Congress is examining an assault on our Constitution and democratic institutions provoked and fanned by those sworn to protect them, and the conduct under investigation extends far beyond typical deliberations concerning the proper discharge of the President's constitutional responsibilities. The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield, from Congress or the public, information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself."
She added that the materials in question "shed light on events within the White House on and about January 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."
As a practical matter, these decisions mean the White House has given the National Archives the green light to release materials — phone records, visitor logs, internal communications, etc. — to the congressional panel investigating the insurrectionist attack. It's difficult to speculate about what those documents may contain, but we know Trump did not want to give lawmakers this access.
Indeed, the former president's lawyers filed suit last week — against the National Archives and the congressional committee — in the hopes of blocking disclosures.
The litigation is not expected to succeed. As a recent NBC News report added, we may very well see "a legal showdown between the current and former president over executive privilege," though the Republican "faces long legal odds" since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that the incumbent president "is in the best position to assess the present and future needs of the Executive Branch."
Watch this space.