Plaintiffs including the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have sued the Trump administration, attempting to block the deletion of official emails and WhatsApp messages prior to their adequate formal archival. The Trump administration maintains a policy allowing screenshots forwarded from personal to official accounts to serve as adequate records, but the plaintiffs in the new case say that these screenshots leave out critical pieces of information, including “metadata, attachments, functionality, or other digital artifacts needed to authenticate the message.” The lawsuit alleges violations of the Presidential Records Act (PRA).
The new lawsuit says, in part, as follows:
‘With the approaching onset of a new president, much public attention has focused on the likelihood that President Trump, or White House personnel acting at his behest, will destroy records of his presidency before he leaves office, fearing the consequences to him and his legacy should they become public. With President Trump’s term in office soon coming to an end, absent judicial intervention this conduct will permanently deprive Plaintiffs and the public of records documenting a critical part of our nation’s history.’
The Trump administration claimed in response to the new lawsuit that the White House “acts in accordance with statutory requirements.” When the security of the United States hangs in the balance, is a supposed bare minimum really a praise-worthy goal? Singling Kushner out in particular, the new lawsuit observes that “[given] the central role Mr. Kushner has played in implementing the domestic and foreign policies of the Trump administration, the missing information is likely to yield historically important details about what the Trump administration did and why.” Kushner has worked in policy areas from Middle East relations to COVID-19. The lawsuit accuses him of “knowing and routine failure” to keep “‘complete copies’ of all Presidential records created or sent from his non-official electronic messaging accounts.”
Republicans, of course, have frequently complained about Hillary Clinton’s usage of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State, but now, the usage of non-official accounts by Jared Kushner himself figures prominently in a substantive new lawsuit against the outgoing presidential administration, which highlights the Trump team’s rushed, ramshackle approach to policy in general. Law professor Shontavia Johnson insisted to CNN that the PRA “gives ownership of all presidential records to the United States (we the people), and all of those records must be transferred to the Archivist of the United States after the president leaves office.”