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National Archives release records about recovery effort

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An in depth property inventory of documents and other items seized from former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is seen after the document was released to the general public by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach, Florida, September 2, 2022.

Jim Bourg | Reuters

The National Archives and Records Administration on Monday publicly released a small fraction of communications related to government documents removed by former President Donald Trump and his reported destruction of some White House records.

The communications related to NARA’s efforts to get better those documents, which included letters to Trump from former President Barack Obama and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Additionally they expressed the agency’s concern about Trump’s reported penchant for ripping up some documents he read within the White House.

Other communications released Monday included correspondence between NARA and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The committee earlier this 12 months asked David Ferriero, the archivist of america, for details about 15 boxes of presidential records that it had recently recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club residence in Palm Beach, Florida.

The communications were released in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

NARA said it was withholding the overwhelming majority of the communications, including letters it sent to Trump’s lawyer, the Department of Justice, Congress and the White House, because they were exempt from disclosure under FOIA.

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation of Trump over the removal of presidency documents when he left office.

That investigation led to an FBI raid in early August at Mar-a-Lago. Agents seized 1000’s of presidency records, a variety of them highly classified. The raid occurred after the DOJ got here to suspect that Trump had retained more official documents than those included within the 15 boxes given to NARA.

In all, NARA on Monday released 11 pages and withheld 298 pages of communications between the agency and representatives for Trump.

And it released just 54 pages of communications from NARA to what the agency called “external entities aside from Trump representatives.” NARA is withholding 1,249 pages of communications in that category.

“NARA will proceed to review additional responsive information in the approaching months for possible release,” the agency said in an announcement. “We are usually not in a position to comment more on today’s release due to pending litigation.”

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In a May 2021 email that was released Monday, NARA General Counsel Gary Stern told lawyers for Trump about ongoing efforts to capture presidential records on social media accounts, but added, “There are also certain paper/textual records that we cannot account for.”

“We due to this fact need your immediate assistance to make sure that NARA receives all Presidential records as required by the Presidential Records Act,” Stern wrote.

For instance, Stern wrote, “the unique correspondence between President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un weren’t transferred to us; it’s our understanding that in January 2021, just prior to the tip of the Administration, the originals were put in a binder for the President, but were never transferred to the Office of Records Management for transfer to NARA.”

“It is crucial that these original records be transferred to NARA as soon as possible.”

Stern added that the letter that Obama left for Trump on the Oval Office when Obama’s presidency ended likewise “has not been transferred” to NARA.

“It’s a Presidential record” and thus have to be held by NARA, Stern noted.

Stern also wrote that NARA understood that about two dozen boxes of original presidential records were kept within the residence of the White House during Trump’s final 12 months in office but had not yet been sent to NARA “despite a determination by [White House counsel] Pat Cipollone in the ultimate days of the Administration that they need be.”

In one other document released Monday, a June 2018 letter from Stern to Trump’s deputy White House counsel Stefan Passantino, Stern noted that the news outlet Politico had published an article days earlier about two former White House employees who had been answerable for taping back together documents that “were torn up by President Trump.”

“I’m writing to request information on how the White Home is addressing this issue,” wrote Stern, who noted that such documents could be subject to retention under the Presidential Records Act.

“What number of records were torn up? Have any records been destroyed or were in a state that they can’t be recovered,” Stern asked. “What steps are taken to get better any records which have been torn up?”

The records NARA released Monday don’t include any response to Stern’s letter.

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