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Biden says Trump must surrender documents for Capitol probe

Biden says Trump must surrender documents for Capitol probe
Pro-Trump protesters storm into the U.S. Capitol during clashes with police, during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, January 6, 2021. (Reuters)

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President Biden rejected an attempt by Donald Trump to withhold documents from the congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot.

Trump had asked that the records the committee requested remain hidden under executive privilege, which shields some presidential communications.

Meanwhile his former aide Steve Bannon has vowed to resist a subpoena to appear before the inquiry.

The panel has threatened jail for any ex-officials who refuse to co-operate.

Biden says Trump must surrender documents for Capitol probe
Former United States president Donald Trump. (Internet image)

Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington on 6 January in a failed bid to overturn the certification of Biden’s election victory in November.

Hundreds of Trump’s supporters have since been arrested for their actions that day. Prosecutions are still ongoing.

In August the investigating committee asked for records relating to the day’s events, including communications from Trump, members of his family, his top aides, his lawyers and other former members of his administration.

But Trump argued that he could claim executive privilege – which allows a president to keep secret some of the communications related to their job – to prevent the documents from being handed over to the inquiry.

Legal scholars are divided on whether executive privilege can be asserted by former presidents. The issue is likely to set off a series of legal challenges to be determined by the courts.

On Friday the White House wrote to the National Archives saying that said that Biden “determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States”.

Meanwhile Bannon’s refusal to testify has led members of the January 6 committee to threaten criminal contempt of Congress charges against him.

Democrats argue that Bannon is employing a delaying tactic in an attempt to push back proceedings until after the midterm elections in November 2022, which may change the composition of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress.

“The whole game is to drag this out as long as possible, to see whether they can mobilise enough voter suppression to get Congress to change hands,” Rep Jamie Raskin told US media, adding: “We’re not going to let people play games and sweep evidence under the rug.”

The committee has also ordered the testimony of Mark Meadows, Trump’s ex-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media manager; and Kash Patel, a former Pentagon chief of staff.

Meadows and Patel were cooperating with the inquiry, committee leaders Democrat Bennie Thompson and Republican Liz Cheney said in a statement.

US media report that Trump has asked all four former officials to refuse to comply with the inquiry.

On Friday Trump – who has never conceded that he lost the election to Biden – accused Democrats in Congress of using the committee to “persecute their political opponents”. (BBC)