Trump scorned presidential records act. National Archives came to Florida and said: Nah!
The National Archives recently had to retrieve 15 boxes of presidential records from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach and now has asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records, The Washington Post reported.
The 15 boxes included correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, former President Barack Obama’s letter to him and that infamous “Sharpie” map about the track of Hurricane Dorian, among other items, some of the information potentially classified. Trump advisers told The Post that there was no “nefarious intent.”
A simple mix-up, in other words. Well, of course. From the same president who routinely tore up official documents, despite the Presidential Records Act, which requires the preservation of a president’s memos, letters, notes and other communication to be stored at the archives as historical records.
From the same president who, according to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s forthcoming book, “Confidence Man,” was the occupant of the White House when staff members repeatedly found paper clogging toilets, leading them to believe Trump was flushing documents.
From the same president whose staff included people dedicated to retrieving his hand-shredded documents from the Oval Office and the residence, piecing them together and taping them with clear tape so they could be stored at the National Archives, as Politico reported in 2018.
The act is clear. Presidential records are not owned by a president. They are owned by the people.
And that’s because the records are a critically important way to understand what actually went on during a president’s term. As presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky told The Post, “The only way that a president can really be held accountable long term is to preserve a record about who said what, who did what, what policies were encouraged or adopted, and that is such an important part of the long-term scope of accountability — beyond just elections and campaigns.”
Held accountable. That’s the very last thing this former president wants. Some of those ripped up records have already shown up in the Jan. 6 investigation. Still missing: most of the records of the calls he made or received as his supporters launched that assault on Congress.
On the Mar-a-Lago boxes, Trump insisted to The Post that he had engaged in “collaborative and respectful” discussions with the National Archives. But that’s impossible to square with a president who routinely tore up documents.
There’s a chance that, as some have theorized, a president who was so mired in his disbelief that he had lost the 2020 election had to pack up in such a hurry that he (his staff, we mean) grabbed things they shouldn’t have, by accident. Maybe.
But then you remember his track record on flouting the law, even the basic one about keeping presidential records. You remember his refusal to speak up when his supporters were attacking the Capitol, beating police and chanting “Hang Pence.” You remember the records management specialist whose job it was to clean up after the president, a grown man with many legal advisers, because no one could stop him from “filing” letters in the garbage can or shredding documents into confetti-size pieces.
You think of all that. And you say: Go, National Archives, go.
— From the Miami Herald editorial board (TNS).