Attorney General James Reminds White House to Maintain Presidential Records After Trump Administration’s Repeated Disregard for Law
AG James Leads Multistate Coalition in Sending Letter to White House Counsel
Reminding Staff to Comply with Presidential Records Act and Federal Records Act
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today led 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, Attorney General James and the coalition remind 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.
“The Trump Administration shouldn’t have to be told that they need to comply with the law and keep all records of official business, but the last four years have shown that the president needs to be constantly reminded what the law is and how he must comply with it,” said Attorney General James. “Even the president’s tweets, the private conversations he had with Russian President Putin, and Ivanka’s private email server must be archived. Every bit of this information belongs to the American people and the White House cannot deprive the public of this information.”
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, according to multiple news reports, the Trump Administration has taken numerous actions displaying an utter disregard for their 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 a news report from 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 news reports in Politico and The New Yorker.
- Presidential Advisor 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 a news report in The Washington Post.
- Presidential Senior Advisor 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 a news report in Politico, as well as his use of the messaging app WhatsApp to communicate with foreign leaders and other foreign government officials, according to a news report by CNN.
In today’s letter, Attorney General James and the coalition remind the 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 the White House counsel to confirm compliance with this request before the inauguration of President-elect Joseph Biden on January 20, 2021.
Joining Attorney General James in sending today’s letter to the White House are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Fiona Kaye of the Executive Division. The Executive Division is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.