Grab the popcorn, sports fans, here we go. Or should I say here we continue?
As reported by The Washington Post on Thursday, the Department of Justice is moving forward with a probe into the removal of 15 boxes of White House records to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. People familiar with the matter told WaPo that the department is taking steps to launch a full-blown investigation, which is in the very early stages.
According to WaPo, it’s not yet clear if Justice Department officials have begun reviewing the materials in the boxes — which were finally turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration in late January — or seeking to interview those who might have seen them or been involved in assembling and moving them.
The Presidential Records Act of 1978 (PRA) requires presidents to preserve memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes, and other written communications related to their official duties and turn them over to the Archives upon leaving office. Reportedly included in the material is Trump’s correspondence with “Little Rocket Man,” North Korea’s nutjob dictator, Kim Jong-un.
The Justice Department is facing increasing political pressure to in effect show its hand, including turning over the information to the House Oversight Committee. Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) accused the DOJ of obstructing her committee’s investigation into the 15 boxes of records Trump took to his estate in Palm Beach.
In a letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Maloney alleges that the Justice Department is “interfering” with the investigation by preventing the National Archives and Records Administration from handing over a detailed inventory of the contents of the recovered boxes. As transcribed by WaPo:
The Committee does not wish to interfere in any manner with any potential or ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice. However, the Committee has not received any explanation as to why the Department is preventing NARA from providing information to the Committee that relates to compliance with the [Presidential Records Act], including unclassified information describing the contents of the 15 boxes from Mar-a-Lago.
Oh, please. Irrespective of whether Trump violated the Act, the notion that Trump-Derangement-Syndrome-riddled Congressional Democrats aren’t interested in politicizing the ever-loving crap out of this thing before it even gets off the ground in earnest, is preposterous at best, a bald-faced lie at its worse.
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich, in February, defended the former president’s actions.
It is clear that a normal and routine process is being weaponized by anonymous, politically motivated government sources to peddle Fake News.
So who’s telling the truth? I don’t know — and neither does anyone else without access to the relevant facts and no political ax to grind. That said, the Presidential Records Act (PRA) requires, in part:
- Establishes public ownership of all Presidential records and defines the term Presidential records.
- Places the responsibility for the custody and management of incumbent Presidential records with the President.
- Requires that the President and his staff take all practical steps to file personal records separately from Presidential records.
- Establishes that Presidential records automatically transfer into the legal custody of the Archivist as soon as the President leaves office.
Here’s a bit of relevant background, as provided by the Lawfare Institute in February.
On Jan. 31 and Feb. 5, The Washington Post reported that former President Trump routinely “tore up briefings and schedules, articles and letters, memos both sensitive and mundane” in violation of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and that some of the records received by the Jan. 6 committee had been “ripped up and then taped back together.”
On Feb. 7, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) disclosed that it had been forced to retrieve 15 boxes of records from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.
On Feb. 9, The New York Times reported that some of those boxes contained classified records.
On Feb. 10, a preview of Maggie Haberman’s book disclosed that “staff in the White House residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet—and believed the president had flushed pieces of paper.”
And so it begins. Or continues.
One — this one, anyway — can only look forward with great anticipation (and expectations) to the game-on festivities that will begin in earnest if (when) Trump announces his candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
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