Government Seizes White House Records From Mar-a-Lago
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) retrieved multiple boxes of White House records from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last month.
The boxes reportedly raise new questions about Trump’s adherence to the Presidential Records Act, which requires the preservation of things like memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes.
Trump advisers deny any ill intent and said the boxes contained mementos, gifts, letters from world leaders, and other correspondence. Among the contents were correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a letter from former President Barack Obama.
All recent administrations have violated the Presidential Records Act in some capacity, most often using unofficial email and phone accounts. The NARA has had to retrieve White House documents from multiple administrations.
Still, a source told The Washington Post that the situation was “out of the ordinary. … NARA has never had that kind of volume transfer after the fact like this.”
But the Presidential Records Act operates on a “gentleman’s agreement,” as the NARA doesn’t have much in the way of enforcement capabilities, according to one Archives official.
While some legal experts see the potential for enforcement, others say that would be highly unlikely.
Charles Tiefer, former counsel to the House of Representatives, said there would have to be “willful and unlawful intent”; otherwise, it’s unactionable.
“You can’t prosecute for just tearing up papers,” Tiefer said of Trump.
“You would have to show him being highly selective and have evidence that he wanted to behave unlawfully.”
Some former Trump aides say they don’t believe he acted with nefarious intentions.
“I don’t think he did this out of malicious intent to avoid complying with the Presidential Records Act,” one former Trump White House official said.
“As long as he’s been in business, he’s been very transactional and it was probably his longtime practice and I don’t think his habits changed when he got to the White House.”