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AG Nessel Joins Coalition Reminding White House to Maintain Presidential Records After Trump Administration's Repeated Disregard for Law
December 17, 2020
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel recently joined a multistate coalition of 15 attorneys general from around the nation in calling on the Trump administration to comply with the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act. In a letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, the coalition reminds Cipollone that all staff in the Executive Office of the President — which includes President Donald Trump — must comply with the law and take all necessary steps to preserve and maintain presidential records, including tweets, notes of private conversations and emails from private servers improperly used to conduct government work.
“Sufficient record-keeping is imperative to ensure that the incoming administration is aware of the current administration’s actions. I am standing beside my colleagues across the country to remind those working in the White House of their obligations under law,” Nessel said. “For decades, U.S. presidents and their executive staff have abided by these laws, and this administration should be no exception. A seamless transition is in the best interest of all who call this nation home and for this reason, my colleagues and I are urging the Trump administration to confirm it will retain its records in accordance with the laws of this country.”
Since the beginning of the Reagan administration — 40 years ago next month — the Presidential Records Act has dictated the statutory structure under which presidents must manage the records of their administrations. The law says that the American people “retain complete ownership, possession, and control of Presidential records.” Additionally, since 1950, the Federal Records Act has set guidelines as to how federal departments and agencies preserve and manage archived records.
But the Trump administration has taken numerous actions displaying its failure to meet its duties to properly preserve records, including:
- President Trump concealing details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, according to The Washington Post.
- President Trump tearing up presidential documents, requiring a records management analyst to tape back together documents that were supposed to be preserved, according to Politico and The New Yorker.
- Presidential Adviser Ivanka Trump’s use of a private email server to send hundreds of emails to other government officials about business affecting the American people, according to The Washington Post.
- Presidential Senior Adviser Jared Kushner’s use of a private email server that was used to communicate with other government officials about business affecting the American people, according to Politico, as well as his use of the messaging app WhatsApp to communicate with foreign leaders and other foreign government officials, according to CNN.
In its letter, the coalition reminds White House counsel that President Trump and all White House staff — which includes anyone in the Executive Office of the President — must comply with the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act. The coalition also asks for White House counsel to confirm compliance with this request before the inauguration of President-elect Joseph Biden on Jan. 20.
Attorney General Nessel joins the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington in sending today’s letter to the White House.
Click here to view a copy of the letter.