On Tuesday, American Oversight sued the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for failing to release records related to the agency’s January 2022 repossession of 15 boxes of items from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.
In February, the Washington Post reported that NARA officials retrieved the boxes of White House records from Mar-a-Lago, stating that the materials “should have been transferred to NARA from the White House at the end of the Trump Administration in January 2021.” Later reporting revealed that some of the documents were marked as classified and top secret.
This was yet another development in Trump’s pattern of dodging his obligations to preserve the records of his administration. In January, the Post had reported that some of the records that NARA turned over to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection had been “ripped up and then taped back together.”
“It’s no surprise that Trump violated the Presidential Records Act, but NARA retrieving the records after the fact is inadequate,” said Melanie Sloan, senior adviser at American Oversight. “The public has the right to learn what classified information Trump stashed at Mar-a-Lago.”
American Oversight filed three Freedom of Information Act requests to NARA in February seeking communications from agency officials about the Mar-a-Lago records and with members of the Trump campaign and organization, as well as inventories or lists of items that were retrieved from the residence. These records have the potential to reveal exactly why Trump held on to these materials for a year. NARA did not respond to these requests as required by law, leading American Oversight to file suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The lawsuit is a part of American Oversight’s ongoing document preservation initiative. Launched in November 2020, the project aims to ensure that substantive records from the Trump administration are maintained as historical records to support long-term accountability efforts.
The complaint is available here.
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