Legal experts fear the White House will violate the Presidential Records Act during the transition
With 70 days until the presidential inauguration, there is growing concern over President Donald Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Trump has spent the last week (and months, to years, frankly) publicly discrediting the United States' electoral systems.
Behind closed doors, there is another area of Trump's governing that is raising alarms. The president has replaced several top government officials with his own loyalists and now, there are concerns about the damage his administration could cause between now and Inauguration Day.
A new report released by Just Security breaks down the basis of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and what is included under it. Under the PRA, government employees are only allowed to take personal records when leaving positions.
"Under the Presidential Records Act (PRA), these are (1) materials relating exclusively to the President's own election and to the election of a particular individual or individuals to federal, state, or local office that "have no relation to or direct effect upon the carrying out of constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President;" and (2) materials relating to private political associations. 44 U.S.C. §2201."
Due to his administration's refusal to cooperate with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team, there are concerns about the Trump administration destroying important documents — which is a federal crime.
Just Security made the basis of the PRA clear:
"Destroying or stealing documents belonging to the United States government is a crime. Destroying or stealing documents to cover up another crime, or activity that may be under investigation, is also a crime. Lying about what happened to missing documents is yet another crime. A departing federal official may take personal property from the office but no more. That includes perhaps some family photos – and of course that red cap."
Further, despite personal belongings falling into the category of items that can be taken, the PRA explains that only a select number of specific items are permissible. If government employees are not taking items like keys, family photos, and clothing, it is likely considered government property.
Since this would not the first time Trump has been accused of violating the PRA, legal analyst warn the administration may attempt to do so again.