National Archives Reportedly Asks Justice Dept. to Investigate Trump Over White House Records

© Flickr / Steve KnightUS National Archives Building in Washington, DC
US National Archives Building in Washington, DC - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.02.2022
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has requested the Justice Department (DOJ) examine former US President Donald Trump’s handling of White House records. The federal agencies are reportedly mulling whether to investigate the former commander-in-chief over possible criminal activity.
The NARA referral to the DOJ is in response to the discovery of 15 boxes of documents retrieved from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida, mansion, that were not returned to the government after the former Republican president left office. There are also concerns that many of the documents were torn up.
According to sources, officials suspect Trump to have violated laws pertaining to the handling of government documents. It is possible some were classified documents.
The discussions remain preliminary and it is uncertain whether the Justice Department will take up the matter.
The Presidential Records Act (PRA), passed in 1978, mandates the preservation of all presidential records and makes their legal ownership public. The act also places the responsibility of adhering to the statutes on the incumbent president. The act was a direct response to the Watergate scandal and former US President Richard Nixon’s attempt to destroy Oval Office records.
A report from 2018 claimed that Trump habitually ripped up documents, causing aides to tape them back together so as not to violate the PRA.
Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility, believes the US Justice Department should investigate the matter.

Weismann said: “If they don’t investigate, given how flagrant these violations appear to be, it would basically be saying there is no accountability under the statue.”

“Imagine the scenario if Trump was reelected and what that would mean, and there was no consequences for all of these violations. He could have an entire White House that just thumbed their nose at the Presidential Records Act,” she stated, adding, “I understand through the climate we live in, everything is viewed through a political lens. But I don’t think that should stop the Justice Department at all.”
Trump, throughout his single term and during his post-presidency, claims that he is not in violation of any US laws.
On Wednesday, Trump released a statement suggesting that his discussion with NARA was “collaborative and respectful” and that he had arranged for the “transport of boxes that contained Presidential Records in compliance with the Presidential Records Act.”
NARA is without a real enforcement mechanism for violations of the PRA, according to legal experts. Federal law states that it is only a crime to destroy a document if someone does so knowing they are breaking the law.
The contents of the documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago have not been revealed.
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