Former US President Donald Trump’s aides are looking for more White House records after the National Archives said it retrieved 15 boxes of official materials from the former president’s Florida resort, according to the agency.
“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 National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) said in a statement on Monday.
The hunt for additional documents and items raises questions about Trump’s compliance with federal law requiring the preservation of all communications regarding official presidential duties.
The Presidential Records Act was passed by the US Congress in 1978 in the wake of the Watergate scandal that forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
It gave the United States ownership of US presidential records, and spells out that the US president must adequately document ” activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the President’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties” and to preserve and maintain those records.
The archives confirmed officials retrieved the boxes from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in the southern US state, Florida – one year after they should have been transferred to the agency when Democratic President Joe Biden took office.
“The Presidential Records Act is critical to our democracy, in which the government is held accountable by the people,” US Archivist David Ferriero said.
The statement followed reports by the Washington Post on the boxes found in Florida and the Trump administration’s haphazard recordkeeping, including Trump’s habit of tearing up official documents.
Representatives for Trump, a Republican, could not be immediately reached for comment, Reuters reported.
Former aides to Trump told the Post and the New York Times the materials handed over to the archives were packed up hastily during the former president’s exit.
Several presidential historians said the violations under Trump were unprecedented.
“It’s a pretty shocking disregard for the Presidential Records Act,” historian Lindsay Chervinsky told CNN on Tuesday.
“Presidential documents belong to all of us Americans, not some ex-President,” historian Michael Beschloss tweeted on Monday. “Crucial now for all Americans to know exactly how many and what Presidential documents were illegally taken, hidden or destroyed.”
Among the items retrieved in January were letters to Trump from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Trump’s predecessor, former Democratic President Barack Obama, according to the reports.
The US House of Representatives is investigating Trump supporters’ January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. Trump sought to block congressional investigators from obtaining his records but the US Supreme Court last month rejected his request.
Experts said it was unclear what, if any, repercussions could follow regarding the materials’ improper handling.
“There has never been a prosecution under the Presidential Records Act because no president has ever flouted it to this extent,” Chervinsky said.