A newly revealed letter shows that President Biden authorized the National Archives and Records Administration to reject any executive privilege claims that former President Donald Trump might use to stop the Justice Department from accessing classified documents stored at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
A letter posted late Monday on the website of conservative journalist John Solomon — one of the few people authorized by Mr. Trump to review National Archives records — revealed that Mr. Biden ordered the National Archives to share all materials it had requested from Mr. Trump to be shared with the Justice Department and the FBI.
The letter, written by National Archivist Debra Wall to Trump attorney Evan Corcoran, says the president cleared the way for her to rule on Mr. Trump’s executive privilege claims. That opened the door for the National Archives to allow the FBI and the Justice Department to review the missing documents, which culminated in this month’s raid on Mr. Trump’s residence.
“The counsel to the president has informed me that, in light of the particular circumstances presented here, President Biden defers to my determination, in consultation with the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal counsel regarding whether or not I should uphold former the former President’s purported ‘protective assertion of executive privilege,’” Ms. Wall wrote. “I have therefore decided not to honor the former president’s ‘protective claim of privilege.’”
Ms. Wall also wrote in her letter that Mr. Biden has the authority to nix Mr. Trump’s privilege claims based on a 1977 Supreme Court decision against former President Richard M. Nixon in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.
She wrote that the decision “strongly suggests that a former president may not successfully assert executive privilege ‘against the very Executive Branch in whose name the privilege is invoked.’”
The letter raises questions about the White House’s claims that Mr. Biden was caught off guard by the FBI investigation into his predecessor before the Aug. 8 raid. Mr. Biden was aware of “the particular circumstances” surrounding Mr. Trump’s claim of executive privilege, according to Ms. Wall’s letter.
A memo by White House Deputy Counsel Johnathan Show, also posted on Mr. Solomon’s website, shows that the administration was engaged in conversations with the FBI, the Justice Department and the National Archives as early as April after Mr. Trump voluntarily returned 15 boxes of classified material to the Archives after they had been sent to Mar-a-Lago in the waning days of his administration.
Mr. Show also wrote that Mr. Biden would not object to waiving Mr. Trump’s privilege claim.
The memo and letter are the strongest evidence to date that the White House was involved in the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Mr. Trump.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier this month that neither Mr. Biden nor anyone else in the White House was involved in the Justice Department investigation. She also said that Mr. Biden and his staff were not given a “heads up” about the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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