The National Archives and Records Administration confirmed Monday that it recovered more than a dozen boxes of records from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida last month.
The Washington Post reported earlier Monday that 15 boxes of documents and other items were not transferred to NARA when Trump’s term expired, as required under the Presidential Records Act. The paper reported that NARA started negotiating with Trump’s attorneys late last year, and that the transfer was carried out in mid-January.
“NARA pursues the return of records whenever we learn that records have been improperly removed or have not been appropriately transferred to official accounts,” David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, said in a statement.
The Post reported that the documents include letters between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a letter left by President Barack Obama upon the transfer of power in January, 2017, citing “two people familiar with the contents.”
In addition to the boxes transmitted last month, the National Archives said it is also searching for other Trump-era records that ought to be turned over.
The Presidential Records Act directs all administrations to preserve various kinds of communication and written documentation related to the White House. Previous presidents have also failed to adhere entirely to the law’s preservation strictures, though Trump’s record-keeping practices — or lack thereof — have proven an additional challenge.
The former president has a habit, carried over from his pre-political career, of ripping up documents after he was done with them — necessitating government officials to retrieve the scraps and try to tape them back together. POLITICO reported on the phenomena in 2018 and the Washington Post reported earlier this month that Trump continued tearing up documents throughout his presidency even after he and other top officials were warned against doing so.
Ferriero said that complying with the Presidential Records Act “is critical to our democracy” in order to hold leaders accountable.
“Whether through the creation of adequate and proper documentation, sound records management practices, the preservation of records, or the timely transfer of them to the National Archives at the end of an Administration, there should be no question as to need for both diligence and vigilance,” he said. “Records matter.”