The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the National Archives and Records Administration has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether former President Donald Trump violated federal law in the handling of documents.
The Associated Press was unable to independently confirm the report. However, multiple sources confirm to Capitol Hill Blue that anger is rising over Trump’s apparent withholding of documents from the Archives and discovery of classified material in some 15 boxes removed from the former president’s Mar-a-Logo estate in Florida.
“An investigation by the Department of Justice must follow,” says one concerned Republican, who would talk only under an agreement to withhold his name. “What else is hidden down in that Black Hole in Mar-a-Logo?”
Another source says the Justice Department has told the Archives to have its inspector general look into the matter and make recommendations. That investigation is apparently underway.
The referral followed several Post stories chronicling how then-President Trump dealt with documents, including tearing them up. In one report, since confirmed by the National Archives, the agency arranged the transport of 15 boxes of documents from the Mar-a-Lago property in Florida after Trump’s representatives discovered them and notified the archives.
The Post says the referral is asking the Justice Department to investigate whether Trump violated the Presidential Records Act, which requires that all presidential records of an administration be turned over to the archives when a president leaves office.
The Archives did not return multiple messages seeking comment. The Justice Department declined comment.
Trump said in a statement that “following collaborative and respectful discussions, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) arranged for the transport of boxes that contained Presidential Records in compliance with the Presidential Records Act” from Mar-a-Lago that will one day become part of the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library.
The statement went on to say that the media’s “characterization of my relationship with NARA is Fake News. It was exactly the opposite! It was a great honor to work with NARA to help formally preserve the Trump Legacy.”
In its own statements earlier this week, the archives acknowledged Trump representatives had been cooperating with NARA and had located records “that had not been transferred to the National Archives at the end of the Trump administration.” NARA arranged for them to be transported to Washington. “NARA officials did not visit or raid the Mar-a-Lago property,” the agency said.
NARA said the former president’s representatives are continuing to search for additional records that belong to the archives.
In a separate statement, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said: “Whether through the creation of adequate and proper documentation, sound records management practices, the preservation of records, or the timely transfer of them to the National Archives at the end of an Administration, there should be no question as to need for both diligence and vigilance. Records matter.”
The issue of presidential records, the Trump administration and the archives has been central to the investigation by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection that sought to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Trump tried to withhold White House documents in a dispute that rose to the Supreme Court.
In an 8-1 ruling last month, the Court let stand a lower court ruling that said the archives could turn over documents, which include presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts and handwritten notes dealing with Jan. 6 from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows. At the time, the House committee agreed to defer its attempt to get some documents, at the request of the Biden White House.
A referral for potential criminal prosecution from a federal agency or from Congress does not mean that the Justice Department is likely to bring charges or that it will even investigate the matter.
Questions about Trump’s handling of records date back to 2018, when Politico reported that Trump aides, fearing he might violate the law, routinely pieced documents together with tape because of his habit of tearing them up.
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