On Monday, the National Archives verified that former President Donald Trump’s representatives had given over 15 boxes of papers, letters, presents, and memorabilia that he had carried to Mar-a-Lago after leaving office but was legally compelled to hand over to federal archivists. The National Archives stated in a statement that Trump’s team “are continuing to hunt for more presidential papers that belong to the National Archives.”
According to The New York Times and The Washington Post, the boxes include letters to Trump from former President Barack Obama and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the Hurricane Dorian map Trump famously modified with black Sharpie, stacks of news clippings, and at least one piece of clothing.
The movement of the 15 boxes to Florida was described by some former Trump staffers as part of a frantic withdrawal after “Trump had spent the majority of the presidential transition attempting to discover methods to remain in power,” according to the New York Times. Regardless, the legislation is rather straightforward.
Reposting this: pic.twitter.com/luWy4nWpNj
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) February 7, 2022
Is it possible that Trump may face legal repercussions? Before talking about criminal charges, former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman told MSNBC that he would want to know what was in the 15 boxes, but he noted that Trump’s repeated destruction of White House papers appeared to be a very open-and-shut case.
The American Historical Association’s James Grossman tells the Washington Post that Trump’s serial tearing up of records “is against the law,” but “the difficulty is that the Presidential Records Act, as drafted, does not have any effective enforcement mechanism.” The Presidential Records Act, according to one official at the National Archives, is essentially a “gentlemen’s agreement.”
Former House lawyer Charles Tiefer tells the Post, “You can’t charge for merely ripping up documents.” “You’d have to prove [Trump] was being really picky and had proof that he intended to engage in illegal behavior.”
The Washington Post claims, citing 11 former Trump aides and colleagues, that Trump habitually shredded up documents during his administration, despite repeated warnings from attorneys and two chiefs of staff that he was breaking the Presidential Records Act. One former top Trump official claimed, “He didn’t want a record of anything.” “He didn’t stop pulling things apart. Do you believe Trump will be concerned about the records act? Please, don’t make me laugh.”
Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told CNN, “At first, we were a White House that didn’t know about preserving things and then, in the end, didn’t care.”