Trump May Have Violated the Presidential Records Act

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Sophia Khan, Staff Writer

The Presidential Documents Act, passed by Congress in 1978, covers official presidential and vice presidential documents created or received after January 20, 1981, and mandates the preservation of all such records. 

In order to protect the history of the United States, the executive branch is required to keep these documents and turn them over to the National Archives and Records Administration. This law allows individuals to hold elected leaders accountable for their past actions. The Presidential Documents Act was designed to prevent future presidents from doing what Richard M. Nixon wanted to do after he resigned in disgrace, destroy recordings that documented his and others’ actions in response to the Watergate investigation.

The former president Donald Trump is said to have torn up hundreds of documents during his term, as well as burning them with his aides, rather than turning them over to the National Archives and Records Administration. Lawyers for the White House voiced their concern to the former president, informing him of the legislation mandating the preservation of the materials. Reports indicate that the National Archives and Records Administration has asked the Justice Department to investigate and determine whether charges should be filed.

Even after repeated requests from the National Archives, Trump had refused to return the materials. In his denials of any wrongdoing, former President Trump said the Archives “openly and willingly arranged” the transport of boxes containing letters, records, newspapers, magazines, and articles, which he said will be displayed in the future Donald J. Trump Presidential Library.

David H. Laufman, a former Justice Department lawyer stated, “If there’s some intent to destroy documents to preclude a government agency from carrying out its lawful function, there could be a conspiracy to defraud the United States.” The destruction of documents by Mr. Trump could open him up to further criminal exposure if his purpose was to impede an investigation.