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White House offers unredacted Jan. 6 transcripts to GOP — with conditions

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The Biden administration has made its next move in an extended back-and-forth with House Republicans over Jan. 6 select committee transcripts, offering to share unredacted testimony the GOP has been seeking for months — under certain conditions.

Richard Sauber, a member of the White House Counsel’s Office, said the administration would permit Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) — who has been leading a review of the Capitol attack and the previous committee’s work in investigating it — the chance to examine, but not keep, the unredacted transcripts.

“We will make the unredacted transcripts available to you for review in camera, provided that you agree in writing to abide by the commitments made on a bipartisan basis by the Select Committee — to maintain the anonymity of the four witnesses consistent with the conditions under which the witnesses agreed to appear before the Select Committee, and to prevent the disclosure of ‘operational details and private information,’” Sauber wrote in a two-page letter to Loudermilk, which was obtained by POLITICO.

The Georgia Republican has pushed for the administration to hand over the records for months, which he has characterized as interviews with White House employees that were in or around the Oval Office during the attack. The Jan. 6 select committee publicly released the vast majority of its evidence, but withheld a handful of transcripts of White House aides and Secret Service officials. Those were sent to the White House and Department of Homeland Security for further review and redaction under the terms of an agreement struck in order to interview witnesses in the first place.

The committee has access to the redacted White House transcripts, but Republicans have complained that key portions were blacked out, and have openly speculated that the transcripts include information that would undermine some of the Jan. 6 committee’s findings. House Republicans have repeatedly flirted with efforts to discredit the panel’s previous work and downplay the Capitol attack.

If Loudermilk accepts the offer, it will give House Republicans access to a tranche of unredacted testimony that has so far been unavailable to them and to the public. Sauber described the witnesses as individuals who “worked at the White House on January 6, 2021, during the Trump Administration, serving in non-partisan roles, including in positions with national security responsibilities.”

A spokesperson for Loudermilk didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the White House’s letter. In a brief interview last week, he said his “speculation” about those interviews is they “didn’t go the way [Democrats] were hoping.”

The interviews were referenced in the select committee’s final report, using descriptors like “a White House employee with national security responsibilities” or simply a “White House employee.” One witness corroborated others who described Trump’s “heated” reaction to then-Vice President Mike Pence during their final conversation on Jan. 6. Another said they overheard top Trump lawyers lamenting that the then-president didn’t want to help stop the violence unfolding at the Capitol.

Loudermilk sent a letter to the White House last week reiterating his request that the administration hand over unredacted copies of the transcripts to the committee. If the White House didn’t hand over the records, Loudermilk warned that the committee would “have no other choice” than to subpoena the documents. In the recent interview, Loudermilk also threatened to subpoena previous Jan. 6 committee witnesses.

The batch is not expected to include some of the prominent interviews the select committee conducted with high-level Secret Service officials, which are currently held by the Department of Homeland Security. Those include transcripts of interviews with the head of Trump’s Secret Service detail, Robert Engel, and the driver of Trump’s presidential SUV on Jan. 6.

Republicans have also requested former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson — a star select committee witness who delivered a string of bombshell revelations — turn over any records she previously shared with the Jan. 6 committee.

Loudermilk has become the House’s point-man on efforts to review the work of the Jan. 6 select committee, which interviewed hundreds of witnesses connected to Trump’s attempt to retain power despite losing the 2020 election.

The Georgia Republican has at times described his role as a gatekeeper, rejecting fringe conspiracies espoused by a handful of members of the GOP conference. But he has also helped trigger some of those same misleading claims, alleging without proof that the Jan. 6 committee “deleted” evidence in a bid to stymie Republicans.

That was immediately amplified by Trump and other high-profile Republicans, sparking a rebuke from Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chaired the previous select committee and said the House Administration Committee already has all of its archived records.

“I cannot assist your attempts to keep the January 6th conspiracy theories alive with your subcommittee’s misrepresentations and continued fishing expeditions, all in the service of your and Donald Trump’s political interests,” Thompson said in a letter to Loudermilk about his investigation.