Former national archivist discusses Trump’s desperate campaign to keep his records sealed: 'I’m talking about prison time'
Almost a year after leaving the White House, former President Donald Trump continues to face a variety of investigations — from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s January 6 committee to New York State Attorney General Letitia James to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Trump’s team has fought aggressively to keep White House records out of the hands of Pelosi’s committee, and according to Daily Beast reporter Jose Pagliery, former U.S. national archivist John W. Carlin believes that Trump has good reason to want to keep those records under lock and key.
“An outgoing president’s White House records go straight to the National Archives and Records Administration, where they could be kept away from the public for up to 12 years,” Pagliery explains in an article published by the Beast on January 3. “However, President Joe Biden waived that presidential privilege when he allowed the bipartisan House January 6 Committee to request some documents about Trump’s final weeks in office. Trump sued to block that, and his odd claims of ‘residual’ executive privilege got knocked down by a federal judge who noted ‘presidents are not kings’ and an appellate panel that found his argument has ‘no basis.’”
Pagliery continues, “This epic fight over records is now reaching the Supreme Court. Those records could show whether the Trump White House plotted to use the Department of Justice to intimidate states to reject 2020 election results, schemed with rogue Republicans in Congress to halt certification of Electoral College votes that reflected Biden’s win at the polls, and interacted with rally organizers who brought the crowds that violently attacked the U.S. Capitol Building.”
Carlin was appointed to head the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration by President Bill Clinton in 1995. And Donald W. Wilson, also interviewed for Pagliery’s article, held that position from 1987-1993.
Carlin told the Beast that Trump is showing a sense of desperation when it comes to keeping his White House records away from the January 6 committee, saying, “Given how frantic they are.... there are things in those records that are going to make real trouble. I’m talking about prison time. It reinforces the fact that they know they’re in real trouble if these things are released — particularly if they’re released soon.”
According to Carlin, “It’s important that records are used to get the truth out. Nothing highlights that more than the controversy we're going through. Records are going to have a huge impact in determining who did what, particularly as you get to the Justice Department.”
Wilson stressed to the Beast that keeping official records on personal devices is a violation of the Presidential Records Act.
Wilson explained, “You aren’t supposed to conduct personal business on your cell phone. If it is, then it’s an official record. Is this official business? If it is, then it’s technically a presidential record, even if it’s on your personal cellphone. All of it is supposed to be turned over at the end of the administration.”
Wilson also told the Beast, “I’m really kind of glad to see the special committee and the archives’ role in the middle of this. It does bring attention to presidential records and how important they are — not just for current events but for the future of the country. Archives aren’t just a repository. It’s preserving our national history.”
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