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Jan. 6 panel defers requests for some records at White House’s urging

The White House and the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol reached an agreement to keep some presidential documents shielded from the committee.

WASHINGTON (CN)— The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol has agreed to defer its requests for hundreds of documents from the Trump administration that the Biden White House has said are not relevant to the panel's investigation and could jeopardize national security if disclosed.

The agreement between the committee and the White House to protect some documents from being turned over comes as President Joe Biden has repeatedly rejected former President Donald Trump's claims that executive privilege should prevent the panel from reviewing relevant documents and deposing former members of his administration, but the Biden White House has raised concerns about disclosing some documents.

A Dec. 16 letter from the White House Counsel's Office lays out the agreement which shields presidential documents that were created on Jan. 6 but do not pertain to the attack and reports of National Security Council deliberations from the committee's sweeping subpoena.

Biden officials warned that disclosing information on how the National Security Council makes its decision about U.S. policy would break its tradition of confidentiality and could create a dangerous precedent for future presidencies.

The letter also asked the congressional committee to work with executive agencies, not the White House, to obtain documents that are highly classified or involve sensitive law enforcement information.

"The documents for which the Select Committee has agreed to withdraw or defer its request do not appear to bear on the White House’s preparations for or response to the events of January 6, or on efforts to overturn the election or otherwise obstruct the peaceful transfer of power,” Deputy Counsel to the President Johnathan Su wrote in the letter made available Tuesday.

The committee's decision to defer requesting these documents is not necessarily final. It has the ability at any time to request these documents again from the Biden White House if desired, but Su said the agreement should not affect the committee's goal of understanding how the attack on the Capitol transpired and the degree to which Trump and lawmakers were involved.

“The Select Committee’s agreement to withdraw or defer these documents, as well as the documents subject to the prior deferral, should not compromise its ability to complete its critical investigation expeditiously,” Su wrote in the letter.

While the agreement protects some of Trump's presidential documents from seeing the light of day, the former president is still fighting what has so far been an uphill battle to keep more relevant documents pertaining to Jan. 6 from getting into the committee's hands.

Earlier this month, Trump lost an appeal in federal court to block the National Archives and Records Administration, the agency which oversees documents created during his presidency, from turning over records to the Jan. 6 panel. He is now asking the Supreme Court to step in and block the nearly 800 documents from being disclosed.

The records Trump is fighting to protect include visitor logs, drafts of speeches for Jan. 6 rallies, notes from Trump's former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows' records pertaining to the events of Jan. 6 and “a draft executive order on the topic of election integrity," according to court records.

Biden has repeatedly waived any claims of executive privilege by Trump that would prevent the committee from thoroughly investigating the Jan. 6 attack.

“On the record before us, former President Trump has provided no basis for this court to override President Biden’s judgment and the agreement and accommodations worked out between the political branches over these documents,” U.S. Circuit Judge Patricia Millett wrote in the D.C. Circuit's decision earlier this month.

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