Before it obtained documents from the Trump White House last month, the National Archives reportedly issued a threat to the former president’s team, saying that it planned to alert Congress and the Justice Department if Trump did not immediately resolve a months-long back and forth to turn over records, according to CNN.
In May last year, the Archives reportedly realized that some important items from Trump’s presidency had not been transferred to the Archives. Upon coming to that realization, longtime Archives lawyer Gary Stern reached out to Trump’s team. Stern reportedly contacted a person from the White House counsel’s office, who was designated as the President Records Act point of contact, in an effort to locate the missing items and begin the process of transferring the materials back to the Archives, according to CNN.
The person Stern contacted reportedly served as one of the former president’s impeachment defense attorneys during his second impeachment trial last year. Additionally, the person, as deputy counsel, was reportedly among the White House officials who typically ensured that records were properly preserved during the transfer of power and Trump’s departure from office.
Stern reportedly grew increasingly frustrated when several months of a back and forth with Trump’s team proved fruitless.
But at one point, the Archives escalated its demand for documents to be turned over — which may have prompted an end to the impasse. The Archives notified a member of Trump’s team that it would alert both Congress and the Justice Department if documents weren’t turned over immediately.
The months-long impasse ended last month when Archives officials retrieved 15 boxes of Trump White House documents from Mar-a-Lago. Last week, the Archives confirmed to the Washington Post that it recovered Trump’s self-described “love letters” from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and the infamous Hurricane Dorian forecast map that Trump altered with a Sharpie to back up his false claim about the hurricane hitting Alabama. Additionally, the Archives reportedly retrieved former President Barack Obama’s departing message to Trump.
However, despite Trump claiming in a statement last week that that he had engaged in “collaborative and respectful” discussions with the Archives, one source told CNN that the document turnover has “not been fully resolved.” The source reportedly also claimed that Trump is still in possession of documents the Archives wants.
The Archives signaled that it was not done searching for more of Trump’s records in a statement last week.
“Former President Trump’s representatives have informed NARA that they are continuing to search for additional Presidential records that belong to the National Archives,” the Archives said.
CNN’s report comes after the Archives reportedly asked the Justice Department to probe Trump’s handling of White House records, following reports of the former president’s unusual and potentially unlawful treatment of presidential records, according to the Post.
The request was issued days after the Post reported that Trump was able to take at least 15 boxes of White House records, that he was supposed to give to the National Archives, to his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida instead of handing them over. Some of the documents were reportedly marked as classified. It has not been determined whether the Justice Department would investigate.
Additionally, House Oversight Committee chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) launched an investigation last week into Trump’s handling of White House documents, following revelations that he had taken boxes of them to Mar-a-Lago.
The DOJ’s request follows the Archives’ reported confirmation that some records turned over from the Trump White House “included paper records that had been torn up” and taped back together.
News of the former president’s unusual habits first emerged in a Politico report in 2018. During his time in office, Trump ripped presidential records into shreds and threw them on the floor, which reportedly caused headaches for records management analysts who would use Scotch tape to piece together fragments of paper that were sometimes as as small as confetti.
Renewed concerns of the former president’s handling of government documents, including those that may be classified, come amid the Jan. 6 Select Committee’s investigation. The committee is looking through records from the National Archives to investigate Trump and his allies’ involvement in the Capitol insurrection last year.
One source told CNN that Archives lawyer Stern is “persnickety” about securing presidential records, saying that it’s likely that Stern “must have lost his mind” over Trump’s haphazard record-keeping habits.