The White House has retrieved 15 boxes containing documents former US President Donald Trump unlawfully took to his Florida Mar-a-lago residence, it was reported.
According to The Washington Post, among the items Trump had taken with him were beautiful letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as well as a handwritten note Barack Obama had left him in the Oval Office.
Under the Presidential Records Act, most of those documents should have been released at the end of the Trump administration.
The recovery of the boxes has raised questions about Trump's adherence to presidential records laws enacted after the 1970s Watergate scandal. Trump lost his bid last month to stop the Archives releasing diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts and other White House documents to the House committee investigating the 2021 US Capitol riot.
Some of the papers handed over had been “torn up by former President Trump” and taped back together, the Archives revealed. It added that it had also received a number of records that were still in pieces.
“It's all a pristine example of Trump's approach to the presidency, namely that the vast power exists for him and not for the American people, to whom these records in fact belong,” former deputy assistant attorney general Harry Litman said on Twitter.
White House officials are reportedly still looking for additional Presidential records that belong to the National Archives.
In 2018 press reports had revealed Trump's habit of ripping up documents into shreds, a routine that left staffers in charge of taping them back together so records could be maintained. In addition to tearing up documents in the Trump White House, officials would round up documents in burn bags and send them to the Pentagon to be incinerated.
White House records management officials during the Trump Administration recovered and taped together some of the torn-up records, according to the National Archives. These were turned over to the National Archives at the end of the Trump Administration, along with a number of torn-up records that had not been reconstructed by the White House.
Both the destruction of White House documents and Trump taking boxes of official documents to Mar-a-Lago with him likely violate the Presidential Records Act, which requires White House officials to maintain and preserve official documents, The Washington Post said.
It is absolutely a violation of the act, Courtney Chartier, president of the Society of American Archivists, told The Post. There is no ignorance of these laws. There are White House manuals about the maintenance of these records. The way Trump handled these documents is highly unusual.
A former Trump official quoted by the WaPo said it was probably his longtime practice and I don't think his habits changed when he got to the White House.
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