DOJ Investigation Of Trump For Document Theft Proposed By Gov’t Watchdog

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The government watchdog group known as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has, along with a group called the National Security Archive, requested an investigation by the Justice Department into Donald Trump’s handling of official records while in office. Trump has been reported to have consistently ripped up various documents associated with his presidency, seemingly clearly violating the Presidential Records Act, which demands the preservation and eventual delivery to the National Archives of a whole host of records from presidential administrations. Records that were recently received from the National Archives by the House committee investigating the Capitol riot had even been ripped up and then taped back together.

As CREW summarized on their website, the “Department of Justice must investigate whether Donald Trump violated the law by destroying records of his presidency before leaving office.” Remnants of certain torn up papers have been reported to have been placed in burn bags to be irretrievably destroyed. Besides the destruction concerns, there have also been worries about whether potentially very sensitive government information from Trump’s tenure was properly handled — 15 boxes of records were taken from D.C. to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and eventually retrieved by the National Archives. Meanwhile, CREW notes that then-President Trump engaged in the document destruction “despite repeated warnings from top White House officials” — so it’s difficult if not impossible to make the case that it was just about ignorance. CREW President Noah Bookbinder commented as follows:

‘Donald Trump’s repeated and apparently willful destruction of his presidential records threatens to deny the American people a full historical record of his presidency and an opportunity to hold him and his administration fully accountable for their actions while in power. There is no excuse for hiding important information from the public. The Department of Justice must act to investigate and to hold Trump accountable for his reckless behavior.’

And National Security Archive Director Tom Blanton added that the “laws protecting government property and records from mutilation could disqualify former President Trump from ever holding public office again.” Notably, the National Archives has been reported to have also requested a Justice Department investigation into this issue. As The Washington Post put it, “Archives officials suspected Trump had possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents — including those that might be considered classified — and reached out to the Justice Department.” There is also a new investigation into the matter that was recently kickstarted by the House Oversight Committee, whose chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), wants to know details including what records have been in limbo amid this ordeal.

Meanwhile, according to the National Archives — which is known in full as the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) — Trump’s “representatives have informed NARA that they are continuing to search for additional Presidential records that belong to the National Archives.” Republicans who lost it over Hillary Clinton’s handling of official government materials have seemed conspicuously unconcerned about the Trump documents scandal.