The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has alleged that some records from the White House when former President Donald Trump was in office are still missing.
In a letter to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall wrote: “While there is no easy way to establish absolute accountability, we do know that we do not have custody of everything we should.”
NARA doesn’t have records of official business conducted by some White House staff members who were using “non-official electronic messaging accounts,” Wall wrote in the Sept. 30 letter (pdf).
While the records “were not copied or forwarded into their official electronic messaging accounts, as required by section 2209 of the [Presidential Records Act],” NARA has been able to obtain the records from “a number of former officials,” and “will continue to pursue the return of similar types of Presidential records from former officials,” she added.
The Presidential Records Act stipulates that each administration must properly preserve all presidential records and transfer a complete set of records to NARA when the administration ends.
Wall told Maloney in the letter that if needed, NARA would consult with the Department of Justice on whether to “initiate an action for the recovery of records unlawfully removed.” She noted that in August 2022, the DOJ filed a lawsuit against former Trump adviser Peter Navarro to recover official email records from Navarro’s personal email account.
The letter from Wall is a response to a request from Maloney on Sept. 13 asking for an “urgent review” of “whether presidential records remain unaccounted for and potentially in the possession of the former president.”
In a statement to multiple media outlets, Maloney said she will continue her efforts “to ensure that all presidential records from the Trump White House are returned to the custody of the government.”
Maloney at the time also asked NARA to ask Trump for a written certification “that he has surrendered all presidential records or classified materials, has not made any copies or reproductions of such materials, and has not transferred any records or government documents to any party other than NARA or DOJ since his term ended.” In response to that request, NARA referred Maloney to the DOJ “in light of its ongoing investigation.”
Trump and the DOJ are currently engaged in litigation after the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, in early August and seized over 11,000 documents, of which around 100 documents bore classified markings. The DOJ is investigating allegations that Trump illegally mishandled presidential records, and is trying to obstruct the DOJ investigation.
Trump subsequently requested for an independent arbiter to review the seized documents and was successful in the effort. A special master, U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, was appointed to see whether any of the seized FBI materials should not be reviewed by the DOJ due to claims of attorney-client or executive privilege. The review is currently set to end on Dec. 16.
The DOJ is seeking to halt the special master review and recently sought to expedite its appeal in the ongoing legal battle. At the same time, it has repeatedly sought to delay turning over the documents the FBI seized to Trump’s lawyers.