WASHINGTON — The White House is leaning toward releasing information to Congress about what Donald Trump and his aides were doing during the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol despite the former president’s objections — a decision that could have significant political and legal ramifications.
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.
But President Biden’s White House plans to err on the side of disclosure given the gravity of the events of Jan. 6, according to two people familiar with discussions who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private discussions.
In response to questions about White House deliberations over what information to release, Biden spokesman Michael J. Gwin said the president views the attack on the Capitol as ‘’a dark stain on our country’s history” and is ‘’deeply committed to ensuring that something like that can never happen again, and he supports a thorough investigation.’’
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.
‘’It’s not really relevant because there’s no president involved — there’s no such thing as a former president’s executive privilege,’’ said Representative Jamie B. Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, a committee member who teaches constitutional law. ‘’That’s extremely dilute and not really relevant.’’
What Trump was doing while the attack was occurring and who he was speaking with are among the big, unanswered questions concerning the assault on the Capitol.
The debate over the veracity of his executive privilege claims comes as the committee is moving into a new, more aggressive phase of its investigation. Having requested material from telecom and social media companies, and the White House — and receiving some response — it is now looking at how best to compel testimony and documents from those reluctant to participate.
Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, said this week that his panel will soon issue subpoenas to witnesses and organizations, adding that the committee has started scheduling closed-door testimony with cooperative witnesses.
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.
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 certification of electoral votes and unleashed a series of violent confrontations with the US Capitol Police.
Trump’s latest lawyer is from a smaller firm
Earlier this month, one of former president Donald Trump’s best-known attorneys — veteran litigator Marc E. Kasowitz — withdrew from a case where Trump had been sued for defamation.
Trump replaced him with a lower profile lawyer: Alina Habba, from a four-attorney firm with offices near Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., golf club. Habba had never worked for Trump before. Her experience included serving as general counsel for a parking-garage company.
This week, Habba made headlines of her own. On Tuesday, she filed a $100 million lawsuit on Trump’s behalf, targeting The New York Times, three Times reporters, and his niece Mary L. Trump.
Trump alleges that Mary L. Trump violated the terms of a 2001 legal settlement by providing the reporters with family financial records — which they used to write Pulitzer Prize-winning stories in 2018 detailing schemes that Trump and his father allegedly used to dodge taxes.
It’s unclear why Kasowitz stopped representing Trump in the defamation case, which was brought by former ‘’Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, or how Trump chose Habba to represent him in that suit and the one against the Times. Neither Trump nor Habba responded to requests for comment Wednesday.
Habba has filed other lawsuits against media outlets this year, but she does not list media law among her specialties. She does not appear to have donated to Trump’s campaigns, but this summer she represented Siggy Flicker, a Trump-supporting former cast member of the ‘’Real Housewives of New Jersey,’’ in a fight with Facebook. The dispute was featured on the conservative channel Newsmax.
Fla. candidate says she ‘misspoke’ in claiming to be Hispanic
Speaking before a group of Democratic leaders in Florida’s Miami-Dade County on Zoom last week, Miami Beach city commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez made her pitch as to why the party should endorse her.
She called herself ‘’the most high-profile Hispanic Democrat in the city of Miami Beach.’’ Not endorsing her, she continued, ‘’would be upsetting and confusing” for constituents.
But Rosen Gonzalez is not Hispanic.
The 48-year-old picked up the latter name after she married her ex-husband, Emilio Gonzalez. They divorced in 2009, according to WFOR, which first reported on the video.
‘’It is being reported that I have called myself Hispanic. Clearly, I misspoke,’’ Rosen Gonzalez said in a text message to The Washington Post. ‘’I deeply apologize to anyone that was offended.’’
She went on to point to her strong connections to the Hispanic community.
‘’I am proud of my children who are Hispanic, and I am proud to have kept my Hispanic married name,’’ she told The Post. ‘’I am proud to speak Spanish fluently and am proud of the relationship I have built with the Miami Beach Hispanic community.
‘’Of course, none of that makes me Hispanic,’’ she added.