Former President Donald Trump criticized the search for his Mar-a-Lago property by the government in August. On Tuesday night, he said that the Presidential Records Act requires long talks before records are released.
He told the people in the room, “Just so everyone knows, I am protected by the Presidential Records Act, which Congress made and passed many years ago for exactly this reason. As part of the law, I have to talk to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
Then he started to criticize NARA:
“Trump’s claim is false.”
Under the Presidential Records Act, all of the documents from a president’s time in office belong to the National Archives and Records Administration after he or she leaves office. NARA first contacted Trump’s staff in 2021 to try to get some of the papers he had not turned over when he left office. However, there is nothing in the law that says a former president and NARA have to talk about the return of presidential documents.
Jason R. Baron, who used to be the director of litigation at NARA, said in an email to CNN last week, when we checked another false claim by Trump, “The former President is wrong because it is against the law. When President Biden took office at 12:00 p.m. on January 20, 2021, all documents from the Trump administration were legally given to the United States Archivist. That’s it. So, no presidential records should have been sent to Mar-a-Lago in the first place, and it was pointless to keep talking about it.
Timothy Naftali, a CNN presidential historian, NYU professor, and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, called Trump’s claim “ridiculous” and said that the way Trump described the Presidential Records Act was “a matter of fantasy” meant to make Trump “feel like he’s a victim.”
Naftali said in an interview last week that the law makes it clear that the papers Trump had at Mar-a-Lago were presidential records that legally belong to the public and must be in the hands of NARA. Naftali says that under the current law, there is no chance for presidential advisers and the National Archives to debate and talk about these kinds of records at the end of a presidency.
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