The National Archives and Records Administration asked the Justice Department to investigate former President Donald Trump’s handling of White House records, The Washington Post reports.
The National Archives recovered 15 boxes of materials that were improperly taken from the White House from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
The boxes contained mementos, gifts, and letters from world leaders, including one from former President Barack Obama and another from Kim Jong Un, which Trump once touted as a “love letter.”
The Presidential Records Act states that all of these are property of the United States government and must be preserved by the National Archives.
The National Archives previously said that some of the documents were torn up and retaped.
Archives officials also worried that Trump took classified documents with him to his private residence.
Trump in a statement denied the Washington Post report and another report that he had flushed documents down the toilet at the White House residence.
"The papers were given easily and without conflict and on a very friendly basis, which is different from the accounts being drawn up by the Fake News Media," he said. "In fact, it was viewed as routine and 'no big deal.' In actuality, I have been told I was under no obligation to give this material based on various legal rulings that have been made over the years."
But Anne Weismann, the longtime chief counsel for Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, said that Trump “clearly violated the records act in multiple ways, and that — even if the statute was essentially not enforceable — the Justice Department should still investigate.”
“If they don’t investigate, given how flagrant these violations appear to be, it would basically be saying there is no accountability under the statute,” she said. “Imagine the scenario if Trump was reelected and what that would mean, and there was no consequences for all of these violations. He could have an entire White House that just thumbed their nose at the Presidential Records Act. I understand through the climate we live in, everything is viewed through a political lens. But I don’t think that should stop the Justice Department at all.”
House launches probe:
It’s unclear whether the Justice Department will investigate but the House Oversight Committee launched its own probe on Thursday.
Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney said in a letter to the National that she is "deeply concerned that these records were not provided to NARA promptly at the end of the Trump administration and that they appear to have been removed from the White House in violation of the Presidential Records Act."