National Archives refutes claims Trump had two years to go through presidential records in rare public statement

Jun 10, 2023, 10:00 AM

Boxes of classified documents are stored inside a bathroom and shower inside the Mar-a-Lago Club's ...

Boxes of classified documents are stored inside a bathroom and shower inside the Mar-a-Lago Club's Lake Room in this photo included in Donald Trump's federal indictment. Photo credit: US District Court/Southern District of Florida

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The National Archives is pushing back on claims made by former President Donald Trump, his lawyers and his allies over his retention of classified documents, for which he now faces a federal indictment.

On Friday, the Archives took the rare step of releasing a public statement rebuking claims suggesting that Trump was allowed to keep classified materials under the Presidential Records Act.

“Recent media reports have generated a large number of queries about Presidential records and the Presidential Records Act (PRA). The PRA requires that all records created by Presidents (and Vice-Presidents) be turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at the end of their administrations,” according to the statement released by the National Archives on Friday afternoon.

Former Trump attorney Tim Parlatore, who worked on the classified documents case before leaving the former President’s legal team in recent weeks, mischaracterized the Presidential Records Act repeatedly during TV appearances this week, including on CNN Thursday night.

Parlatore said that a President “is supposed to take the next two years after they leave office to go through all these documents to figure out what’s personal and what’s presidential.”

In its statement Friday, the National Archives flatly disputed that claim, stating, “There is no history, practice, or provision in law for presidents to take official records with them when they leave office to sort through, such as for a two-year period as described in some reports.”

Asked about Parlatore’s comments that presidents have two years to go through their records after leaving office, Jason R. Baron, former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration, told CNN, “The statement is false.”

“Only during his time in office does a President have the right to go through his records to separate what may be ‘personal records’ of his, from official records within the scope of the Presidential Records Act,” Baron added.

Trump continued to make false claims about the Presidential Records Act on his Truth Social account, posting after the indictment was unsealed Friday, “This is crazy! … Under the Presidential Records Act, I’m allowed to do all this.”

How NARA stores records for outgoing presidents

Parlatore also suggested Thursday that the National Archives was somehow delinquent in its duty to set up a separate government facility for Trump after he left office in 2021.

“The National Archives ordinarily rents a facility in the town where the president’s moving to, and then they move all the boxes from the White House directly to that facility where they remain under National Archives control,” said Parlatore. “For whatever reason, NARA chose not to do that with Donald Trump,” he added.

In the past, this has been true for Presidents who notified NARA before leaving office that they intended to build a presidential library – something Trump did not do.

“Prior to the end of his administration, President Trump did not communicate any intent to NARA with regard to funding, building, endowing, and donating a Presidential Library to NARA under the Presidential Libraries Act,” the Archives said in its statement.

“Accordingly, the Trump Presidential records have been and continue to be maintained by NARA in the Washington, DC, area, and there was no reason for NARA to consider a temporary facility in Florida or elsewhere,” the statement read.

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National Archives refutes claims Trump had two years to go through presidential records in rare public statement