Historians Sue Trump, Cite ‘Growing Risk That He Will Destroy Records of His Presidency’

Historians Sue Trump, Cite ‘Growing Risk That He Will Destroy Records of His Presidency’

The American Historical Association, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the National Security Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued President Trump to ensure his administration complies with records laws during the transition period.

The groups say “there is a growing risk that [Trump] will destroy records of his presidency” since he will face “potential legal and financial exposure once he leaves office.”

Records of  “the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the president’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties,” must be preserved, according to the Presidential Records Act.

But the director of the National Security Archive said these records “are always at risk because the law that’s supposed to protect them is so weak.” The lawsuit, he added, is designed to “put some backbone in the law and prevent any bonfire of records in the Rose Garden.”

Preserving records has been a concern throughout President Trump’s term, as the Washington Post notes:

Trump has a habit of ripping up paper he is finished with and throwing it in the trash or on the floor, according to a 2018 Politico story. That meant an entire team of records specialists were taping the pieces back together for preservation.

The lawsuit also focuses on officials, including Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who uses screenshots to keep records of communications on nonofficial messaging accounts such as WhatsApp or private email. According to the lawsuit, screenshots violate the Presidential Records Act because they do not include metadata and other attachments that could be of historical value.

Trump has also previously been sued over the use of encrypted apps like Signal, with plaintiffs alleging that officials are not keeping records of phone calls and messages with foreign leaders.

William Vaillancourt

William Vaillancourt

William Vaillancourt is a writer and editor from New Hampshire whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Progressive, Slate and Areo Magazine, among other places. He holds a BA in Political Science and History from Boston University.