By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON -A U.S. congressional committee is investigating former President Donald Trump’s handling of White House records after 15 boxes of documents were transferred from his Florida resort to a federal agency, including whether the material included classified information, the panel’s chairwoman said on Thursday.
House of Representatives Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney said in a statement she was “deeply concerned” that the records were not promptly turned over to the National Archives when Trump’s term ended in January 2021 and “that they appear to have been removed from the White House in violation of the Presidential Records Act.”
Maloney, a Democrat, also expressed concern over U.S. media reports that Trump “repeatedly attempted to destroy presidential records, which could constitute additional serious violations” of that law, which requires the preservation of written communications related to a president’s official duties.
An upcoming book written by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman said staffers found documents clogging Trump’s toilet in the White House during his tenure – an account that the Republican former president in a statement called “categorically false.”
“Staff in the White House would periodically find the toilet clogged” and would then find “wads of clumped up, wet printed paper … either notes or some other piece of paper that they believe he had thrown down the toilet” in his bathroom, Haberman told CNN, adding it was unclear what types of documents were found.
In his statement, Trump acknowledged the boxes of records were sent to the Archives after discussions he called collaborative. Trump said he had been told he “was under no obligation” to hand over any White House materials, though he did not say who gave him that directive, which was at odds with the law.
“The papers were given easily and without conflict and on a very friendly basis,” Trump said.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the National Archives and Records Administration, the federal agency responsible for preserving government records, has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records.
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment on whether it would investigate. The National Archives said it would not comment on potential or ongoing investigations.
In a report on Thursday, the Post, citing two unnamed people familiar with the matter, said some of the documents Trump took to his Florida resort were clearly marked as classified, including documents at the “top secret” level.
The Archives in a statement on Monday said it had arranged for the transfer of 15 boxes of memos, letters and other documents from Trump’s private resort in Florida in mid-January, a month after a Trump representative reporting locating them.
The Archives also said it had worked with Trump representatives throughout last year to locate presidential records that had not been transferred to the agency.
Maloney said she asked the Archives whether it checked for and found any classified documents in the 15 boxes, whether it was aware of any other missing records from Trump’s administration and whether it had notified the U.S. attorney general. She also asked if the Archives was aware of any records destroyed by Trump without its approval, and any actions to recover or preserve them, giving the agency until Feb. 18 to respond.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham, Chizu Nomiyama, Nick Zieminski and Raju Gopalakrishnan)