WASHINGTON — The 15 boxes of White House records that were stored at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence contained items marked as classified national security information, the National Archives and Records Administration said Friday. The agency said the matter has been referred to the Justice Department.
In a response to a Feb. 9 letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the National Archives confirmed reports that Trump took government records with him down to Florida after he left office in January 2021.
House lawmakers had opened an investigation and the National Archives has reportedly asked the Justice Department to look into the matter. The Justice Department and the FBI have not yet said what, if anything, they’ll do.
The letter from the archivists also stated that certain social media records were not captured and preserved by the Trump administration. And that the agency learned that White House staff frequently conducted official business using unofficial messaging accounts and personal phones.
Those staff did not copy or forward their official messaging counts, as required by the Presidential Records Act. The letter also goes on to reveal that after Trump left the White House, the National Archives learned that additional paper records that had been torn up by the former president had been transferred to the agency.
“Although White House staff during the Trump Administration recovered and taped together some of the torn-up records, a number of other torn-up records that were transferred had not been reconstructed by the White House,” the letter continued.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the chair of the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement last week announcing the investigation that Trump was required under the law to turn over the documents to the National Archives before leaving office, and that lawmakers are seeking information about the contents of the boxes recovered from Mar-a-Lago.
In response to her request about the contents of the boxes, the agency cited the records act as holding them back from divulging.
The Washington Post first reported two weeks ago that the archivist asked the Justice Department to investigate the discovery of 15 boxes of White House records recovered from Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, and that the former president had a habit in office of tearing up records both “sensitive and mundane.”
Investigators will be looking to see if Trump's actions, both during his presidency and after, violated the Presidential Records Act, which was enacted in 1978 after former President Richard Nixon wanted to destroy documents related to the Watergate scandal.
The law mandates that presidential records are the property of the U.S. government, rather than belonging to the president himself.
Another statute, punishable by up to three years in prison, makes it a crime to conceal or intentionally destroy government records.