President Joe Biden has ordered the release of Trump White House visitor logs to the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 riot, rejecting former President Donald Trump’s claims of executive privilege once more.
The committee has requested access to a trove of data from the National Archives, including presidential records that Trump has fought to keep private. The records released to Congress are visitor logs that include appointment information for people who were permitted to enter the White House on the day of the insurgency.
White House counsel Dana Remus said in a letter to the National Archives on Monday that Biden had considered Trump’s claim that because he was president at the time of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the records should be kept private, but that it was “not in the best interests of the United States” to do so.
She also stated that President Joe Biden administration, like the Obama administration, “voluntarily discloses such visitor logs on a monthly basis,” and that the majority of the entries over which Trump asserted the claim would be publicly released under current policy.
The Presidential Records Act requires that records created by a sitting president and his staff be kept in the National Archives, and an outgoing president is responsible for turning over documents to the agency when leaving office.
In a Supreme Court decision, Trump attempted but failed to withhold White House documents from a House committee.
Biden has said he will not invoke executive privilege in relation to the congressional investigation unless absolutely necessary. He has waived that privilege for much of the other information sought by the committee, which is sifting through the documents and obtaining testimony from witnesses, including some uncooperative ones.
The committee is concentrating on Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, when he waited hours before telling his supporters to stop the violence and leave the Capitol.
Investigators are also looking into the planning and funding of a rally in Washington on the morning of the riot, during which Trump encouraged supporters to “fight like hell.” Among the unanswered questions is how closely rally organizers worked with White House officials.
Investigators are also looking for communications between the National Archives and Trump’s aides regarding 15 boxes of records recovered from Trump at his Florida resort and trying to figure out what they contained.
Meanwhile, White House call logs obtained by the House committee so far do not include calls made by Trump while he was watching the violence unfold on television on Jan. 6, nor do they include calls made directly to the president.
That lack of information about Trump’s personal calls presents a particular challenge as investigators try to figure out what happened in the White House while supporters violently beat police, broke into the Capitol, and disrupted congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.
There are several possible explanations for omissions in the records, such as those that do not reflect conversations Trump had on Jan. 6 with a number of Republican lawmakers.
Trump was known to use a personal cell phone, or he could have been given a phone by an aide. In addition, the committee is continuing to receive records from the National Archives and other sources, which may yield additional information.