Trump staffers not returning White House records, National Archives says

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FILE PHOTO: A detailed property inventory of items seized by the FBI from former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is seen after being released by a U.S. federal court in Florida

By Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Former President Donald Trump’s administration has not turned over all presidential records and the National Archives will consult with the Justice Department on whether to move to get them back, the agency has told Congress.

A congressional panel on Sept. 13 sought an urgent review by the National Archives and Records Administration after agency staff members acknowledged that they did not know if all presidential records from Trump’s White House had been turned over.

“While there is no easy way to establish absolute accountability, we do know that we do not have custody of everything we should,” acting Archivist Debra Wall said in a letter Friday to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The Archives knows some White House staffers conducted official business on personal electronic messaging accounts that were that were not copied or forwarded to their official accounts, in violation of the Presidential Records Act, Wall said.

“NARA has been able to obtain such records from a number of former officials and will continue to pursue the return of similar types of presidential records from former officials,” Wall said in the letter, first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

She said the Archives, the federal agency charged with preserving government records, would consult with the Department of Justice on “whether to initiate an action for the recovery of records unlawfully removed.”

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The Oversight Committee’s chairwoman, representative Carolyn Maloney, said in a statement she would do everything in her power to ensure the return of all records and prevent future abuses.

“Former President Trump and his senior staff have shown an utter disregard for the rule of law and our national security by failing to return presidential records as the law requires,” Maloney, whose committee shared a copy of the letter with Reuters, said in a statement.

Representatives for Trump did not return a request for comment on the matter.

Trump is facing a criminal investigation by the Justice Department for retaining government records – some marked as highly classified, including “top secret” – at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after leaving office in January 2021.

The FBI seized more than 11,000 records, including about 100 documents marked as classified, in a court-approved Aug. 8 search at Mar-a-Lago.

The Justice Department and Trump’s lawyers have been locked in a legal battle over how the records are handled. Government lawyers have been granted access to the classified documents but on Friday asked an appeals court to expedite its ability to access the non-classified documents seized in Florida.

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(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Daniel Wallis)

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