In a letter sent on Friday to chair of the House Oversight Committee, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) noted that Trump administration officials have not yet submitted all of the records that are due to be returned under the conditions of the Presidential Records Act.
Acting archivist Debra Steidel Wall wrote to the committee that the agency will take action in order to retrieve the missing documents, including consulting with the Department of Justice (DOJ) “on whether ‘to initiate an action for the recovery of records unlawfully removed,’ as established under the Federal Records Act.”
“While there is no easy way to establish absolute accountability, we do know that we do not have custody of everything we should,” Steidel Wall wrote in the letter.
Steidel Wall also noted that NARA has been unable to obtain records from “non-official electronic messaging accounts,” as members of the former administration did not copy or forward messages (e.g. emails) to their official electronic messaging accounts, as required by law.
The letter from NARA to Congress came weeks after Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, wrote to the agency stating that lawmakers were “concerned that, given this pattern of conduct, [former President Donald] Trump may continue to retain presidential records at non-secure locations” — perhaps even at other Trump properties — and that these documents could include “classified material that could endanger our nation’s security and other important records documenting Mr. Trump’s activities at the White House.”
NARA has been trying to obtain records Trump improperly had in his possession for almost two years, since before he left the White House. After his departure following his election loss to President Joe Biden, the agency continued to request that Trump return the documents, which he had moved to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Only after NARA threatened to involve Congress in the matter in late 2021 did Trump and his lawyers relent, allowing officials from that agency to collect some records in January 2022.
After reviewing the records they retrieved, NARA noted that some were marked as classified, and contacted the DOJ to further investigate. The department then subpoenaed Trump, demanding that he return more documents in June and requiring his legal counsel to affirm there were no more documents with classified markings in his possession. Following evidence showcasing that there were more documents at Mar-a-Lago marked as classified, a search warrant was executed in early August, during which 11,000 government documents were retrieved in total — including more than 100 classified documents.
More than 300 documents marked as classified have been retrieved by the DOJ from Mar-a-Lago since the start of 2022.