The National Archives retrieved Trump White House documents from Mar-a-Lago: report

The National Archives retrieved Trump White House documents from Mar-a-Lago: report

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly tore up a copy of then-President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech in February 2020, he claimed that she had violated the Presidential Records Act of 1978 — and it was typical of the type of projection that Trump is known for. Trump had a reputation for tearing up government documents when he was in the White House, or not maintaining them properly. And according to reporting in the Washington Post, the National Archives and Records Administration has obtained Trump-related documents that it should have received when he was still in office.

In an article published on February 7, Post reporters Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger and Ashley Parker explain, “President Donald Trump improperly removed multiple boxes from the White House that were retrieved by the National Archives and Records Administration last month from his Mar-a-Lago residence because they contained documents and other items that should have been turned over to the agency, according to three people familiar with the visit. The recovery of the boxes from Trump’s Florida resort raises new concerns about his adherence to the Presidential Records Act, which requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, e-mails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties.”

“Trump advisers,” according to the Post reporters, “deny any nefarious intent” and “said the boxes contained mementos, gifts, letters from world leaders and other correspondence.”

“The items included correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which Trump once described as ‘love letters,’ as well as a letter left for his successor by President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the contents,” Alemany, Dawsey, Hamburger and Parker report. “Discussions between the Archives and the former president’s lawyers that began last year resulted in the transfer of the records in January, according to one person familiar with the conversations. Another person familiar with the materials said Trump advisers discussed what had to be returned in December. People familiar with the transfer, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal details.”

According to the Post journalists, the National Archives “has struggled to cope with a president who flouted document retention requirements and frequently ripped up official documents, leaving hundreds of pages taped back together — or some that arrived at the Archives still in pieces.”

Presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky explained why it is important for U.S. presidents to obey the Presidential Records Act of 1978, telling the Post, “The only way that a president can really be held accountable long term is to preserve a record about who said what, who did what, what policies were encouraged or adopted. And that is such an important part of the long-term scope of accountability — beyond just elections and campaigns.”

Interviewed on condition of anonymity, an attorney who worked in the White House Counsel’s office under President Barack Obama told the Post, “Things that are national security-sensitive or very clearly government documents should have been a part of a first sweep — so the fact that it’s been this long doesn’t reflect well on (Trump). Why has it taken…. a year for these boxes to get there? And are there more boxes?”

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