President Joe Biden has rejected a request by former President Donald Trump to shield White House visitor logs from the committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, including appointments for individuals granted entry to the White House complex that day.
In a letter to the National Archives, White House counsel Dana Remus wrote Biden has determined that asserting executive privilege “is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified, as to these records and portions of records.” The New York Times was first to report on Biden’s decision.
The National Archives provided these documents to the current White House for review in late January, and they include “visitor logs showing appointment information for individuals who were processed to enter the White House complex, including on January 6, 2021.”
Remus explained the administration’s decision by noting that, while Trump decided to block the visitor logs from public view on claims about national security, the Biden administration “voluntarily discloses such visitor logs on a monthly basis,” with some exceptions.
“The Obama administration followed the same practice. The majority of the entries over which the former President has asserted executive privilege would be publicly released under current policy,” Remus wrote.
Following on the letter from Remus, the National Archives sent a letter to Trump on Wednesday informing him that they would be disclosing presidential records that the former President had argued were privileged, including White House visitor logs, to the select committee.
David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, wrote in the letter that the documents would be delivered to the select committee on March 3.
“To ensure that Executive Branch interests are adequately protected, the Select Committee has agreed to treat entries associated with appointments designated as national-security sensitive (NSS) or otherwise-highly sensitive (OHS) as confidential and to refrain from sharing or discussing such entries outside the Select Committee without prior consultation,” Ferriero wrote. “Moreover, to ensure that personal privacy information is not inadvertently disclosed, the Select Committee has agreed to accept production of these records with birthdates and social security numbers removed.”
It remains unclear how detailed the visitor logs were under the Trump administration or what the documents could reveal to the committee.
White House visitor logs are compiled from information submitted by individuals who have made an appointment to visit the White House, but the extent to which they can reveal the inner workings of the building can be limited.
Anyone without a permanent pass to enter the complex – which includes the White House itself but also several adjacent office buildings – must submit personal details to be cleared in. Usually, an assistant in the office they are visiting handles the process through the White House Worker and Visitor Entry System (dubbed WAVES).
In submitting the clearance information, details are included like who the appointment is with, what date and time it is scheduled for, and where on the complex it is to take place, down to the room number. The Secret Service processes the information, and officers check it against the visitor’s ID when they arrive at one of the White House gates.
That is where visibility derived from the logs ends. If a visitor is cleared in to meet with one individual, but ends up meeting with other officials, that would not appear in the logs. If the person shows up at a different time, or doesn’t show up at all, the entry would still be included with the original time and date. While the entry may show a visitor scheduled for a meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, it is possible they ended up in the Oval Office – escorted by someone who works in the building.
Similarly, records of who visits the White House residence can be limited. While those visitors would also be required to submit their information through the WAVES system, both the Obama and Biden administrations excluded visitors deemed “purely personal guests of the First and Second Families (i.e., visits that do not involve any official or political business)” from their voluntary disclosure.
Citing the committee’s need for information, Remus writes that Biden is also instructing the National Archives to provide these documents 15 days after its notification to the former President, “unless prohibited by court order. If the 15-day period expires on a weekend or holiday, you should provide the records to the Select Committee on the next business day.”
Remus also notes the committee has agreed to treat such entries associated with appointments designated as national-security sensitive (“NSS”) or otherwise-highly sensitive (“OHS”) “as confidential and to refrain from sharing or discussing such entries outside the Select Committee without prior consultation.”
Previously, Trump tried to keep secret “appointment information showing visitors to the White House,” according to court records in his executive privilege fight that went to the Supreme Court. The House ultimately won access to those records, which made up fewer than 30 pages.
Last month, the Supreme Court cleared the way for the release of presidential records from the Trump White House to the congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack. The select committee has been gathering information from hundreds of witnesses and communications providers as it examines the events leading up to the insurrection when hundreds of rioters converged on the Capitol attempting to stop certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
The select committee is seeking more than 700 pages of disputed documents as it explores Trump’s role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election. This includes Trump’s appearance at a rally on January 6 in which he directed followers to go to the US Capitol where lawmakers were set to certify the election results and “fight” for their county.
The documents the select committee is seeking include activity logs, schedules, speech notes and three pages of handwritten notes from then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. These documents could shed light on the events leading up to the insurrection and reveal what was happening inside of the West Wing as Trump supporters overran the US Capitol.
The Supreme Court’s order effectively moots Trump’s pending appeal in the case that centered on keeping the documents secret. Lawyers for Trump say the documents are sensitive and privileged records.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Ariane de Vogue, Katelyn Polantz and Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.