National Archives Believes Trump May Still Possess Presidential Records

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
September 13, 2022 Updated: September 13, 2022

Former President Donald Trump may still possess presidential records, according to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

NARA staff members made the disclosure to the House Oversight Committee, the panel’s chairwoman said in a letter on Sept. 13.

“NARA’s staff recently informed the Committee that the agency is not certain whether all presidential records are in its custody,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman, said in the missive, sent to U.S. Archivist Debra Steidel Wall.

The disclosure was said to have happened during a call on Aug. 24.

“In light of the serious risk that Mr. Trump may still be retaining sensitive government records at Mar-a-Lago or his other properties, I urge NARA to seek a personal certification from Donald Trump that he has surrendered all presidential records that he illegally removed from the White House after leaving office. I also ask that the agency conduct an urgent review of presidential records recovered from the Trump White House to assess whether presidential records remain unaccounted for and potentially in the possession of the former president,” Maloney wrote to Wall.

She also asked NARA to “assess any other limitations on the completeness, accuracy, and accessibility of presidential records provided to NARA by the Trump Administration.”

A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

A NARA spokesperson confirmed receipt of the letter but declined to answer questions.

Under the Presidential Records Act, when a president leaves office, the U.S. archivist “shall assume responsibility for the custody, control, and preservation of, and access to, the Presidential records of that President.” Trump took some presidential records with him to Mar-a-Lago, according to NARA and other government agencies. NARA spent months negotiating with Trump’s team, and Trump ultimately agreed to transfer 15 boxes of materials to the archives in early 2022.

NARA staffers found presidential records in the boxes, then-Archivist David Ferriero told Maloney in February. Further records were discovered in Trump’s possession over the summer, when he handed them over to FBI agents, and during an FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, according to court filings.

Classified Records?

Fourteen of the 15 boxes contained records marked classified, according to Ferriero. NARA tipped off the FBI, which was able to access the materials after Wall, backed by President Joe Biden, decided to waive Trump’s executive privilege claim. Records marked classified were also part of the tranche given to the FBI over the summer and the materials seized by agents during the August raid. The Department of Justice is investigating Trump for possible violations of federal law, including laws governing the handling of defense information.

Trump has said he declassified many records before leaving office, and that the seizure was unwarranted.

Maloney said the developments in a legal case Trump brought over the seized records suggested he may still possess classified records, including a certification by a Trump representative that all such records were given to the FBI over the summer.

“The Committee is concerned that, given this pattern of conduct, Mr. Trump may continue to retain presidential records at non-secure locations, including classified material that could endanger our nation’s security and other important records documenting Mr. Trump’s activities at the White House,” she said.

She noted that John Bolton, a national security adviser during the Trump administration, speculated Trump might have transferred classified documents to his other properties, including Bedminster National Golf Club in New Jersey.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.