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WASHINGTON – At stake in the federal court battle over Donald Trump's White House documents are thousands of pages of records detailing whom the president met and called Jan. 6 as a mob attacked the Capitol, information that could be crucial to a congressional investigation into that day.
Among the 136 pages of documents that were set to be released Friday by the National Archives and Records Administration are 39 pages that Trump claimed should remain confidential under executive privilege. The pages include handwritten notes about events on Jan. 6, appointments for White House visitors and switchboard checklists showing calls to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, according to a court filing from the agency.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol will have to wait to see what's on those contested pages. Thursday, a federal appeals court temporarily halted the release of the documents to the committee as Trump argues the records should remain confidential. Oral arguments are scheduled Nov. 30.
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Though the documents aren't public, court records from Trump’s battle to prevent their release explained the type of information the lawmakers would receive – and what Trump most wanted to keep hidden.
Of the 763 pages in which Trump asserted privilege, 629 are talking points prepared for the press secretary and 43 include presidential schedules, appointments, activity logs, call logs, among other documents, according to the filing from the National Archives.
The House committee made a sweeping request in August for documents from the National Archives and other federal agencies as the panel pieced together what led to the attack on the Capitol and how the White House responded that day. About 140 police officers were injured, and police fatally shot a woman outside the House chamber as the counting of Electoral College votes was temporarily halted.
The National Archives identified nearly 1,600 pages of records that fit the committee’s request and thousands more to be reviewed, according to the agency. Trump sought to keep nearly half the pages confidential, but the Justice Department replied that they are crucial to the investigation.
“These records all relate to the events on or about January 6, and may assist the Select Committee’s investigation into that day, including what was occurring at the White House immediately before, during and after the January 6 attack,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in a court filing for the National Archives and archivist David Ferriero.
The committee's request targeted documents relating to specific White House aides, including Mark Meadows, Trump's chief of staff; counsel Pat Cipollone; senior advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner; political strategist Steve Bannon; Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani; and political adviser Roger Stone. Bannon was indicted Friday for defying his subpoena.
The committee asked for written communications, calendar entries, videos, photographs or other media related to Jan. 6 and its aftermath, strategies on how to delay the Electoral College vote that day and the planning of the rally before the attack on the Capitol, among other requests. Though the focus was on Jan. 6, it also spanned 2020 for Trump’s public remarks about the election and its validity, the transfer of power, potential changes of personnel in executive branch agencies and foreign influence in the election.
The committee “is examining the facts, circumstances and causes of the Jan. 6 attack,” the chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said as the panel made the request. “Our Constitution provides for a peaceful transfer of power, and this investigation seeks to evaluate threats to that process, identify lessons learned and recommend laws, policies, procedures, rules or regulations necessary to protect our republic in the future.”
Trump sued the National Archives in federal court Oct. 18 to block the release by arguing the documents should be kept confidential under executive privilege, to ensure that presidents receive candid advice from aides.
President Joe Biden waived executive privilege for Trump on Oct. 8. U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan refused to block the release Tuesday.
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The records have been divided into four chunks. The first release had been scheduled for Friday. The second and third batches had been scheduled for release Nov. 26. The fourth chunk was under review.
Besides the appointments and call records for Trump and Pence, the first set of pages includes daily presidential diaries, schedules and activity logs. The documents cover drafts of speeches, remarks and correspondence concerning Jan. 6.
The bulk of the second set of documents, totaling 885 pages, are from the press secretary’s binders, including talking points and statements about the 2020 election, according to the archives. A “much smaller” number of documents include presidential calendars and handwritten notes about Jan. 6, a draft speech for the Save America March, a handwritten list of potential or scheduled briefings and phone calls concerning election issues and a draft executive order concerning election integrity, according to the agency.
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The third batch of documents includes a draft proclamation honoring Capitol Police officers Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, who died after the attack, according to the agency. The documents feature a memo originating outside the White House regarding a potential lawsuit by the United States against several states Biden won.
Other records contain an email chain originating from an unnamed state official regarding election issues, talking points about alleged irregularities in a Michigan county and a document containing presidential findings concerning the security of the 2020 election after it occurred.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled oral arguments in Trump's case for whether the contested documents deserve protection under executive privilege for Nov. 30.
Bannon surrendered to authorities Monday on charges he is in contempt of Congress for defying the committee's subpoena. The committee awaits documents and testimony from more Trump aides after subpoenaing 16 more people last week.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump doesn't want Congress to see Jan. 6 documents on meetings, calls