House panel zeros in on missing Trump records

Rep. Carolyn Maloney chairs an October 2021 hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform

Rep. Carolyn Maloney chairs an October 2021 hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Bill Clark/Getty Images

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, wants information from the National Archives about whether former President Trump routinely flouted the requirements of the Presidential Records Act.

The chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), wants the federal government's records management agency to share information in the wake of press reports claiming that former President Trump spirited away documents to his Mar-a-Lago resort when he left office, and routinely destroyed documents while serving as president.

NARA officials recovered 15 boxes of records from Trump's residence in Mar-a-Lago last month, an incident first reported by the Washington Post, which has also reported that NARA has asked the Justice Department to investigate. Media reports have also recently surfaced about the former president tearing up documents while in office and even flushing documents down the toilet, although Trump has denied that that happened. Additionally, the House panel investigating the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021 has identified gaps in White House phone logs form that day, according to a report in the New York Times.

In a Feb. 9 letter to NARA head David Ferriero, Maloney asks for information from NARA about the agency's role in probing for missing documents and what steps have been taken to prevent the further destruction of documentary material.

What happens to presidential records is governed by the Presidential Records Act, which was passed after the Watergate Scandal and denoted official records of the president as public property to be managed by NARA.

"Removing or concealing government records is a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in prison," wrote Maloney, pointing also to how the use of a private email server for official communication by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was handled with investigations. 

"Former President Trump's conduct, in contrast, involves a former president potentially violating a criminal law by intentionally removing records, including communications with a foreign leader, from the White House and reportedly attempting to destroy records by tearing them up," Maloney continued. 

The chairwoman asked NARA to hand over information by Feb. 18. 

Maloney wants to know if NARA had asked Trump officials about missing records before the 15 missing boxes were identified and what response they received, and if there is an inventory of what's in the boxes taken from Mar-a-Lago.

Maloney also asks if there are any other presidential records missing; "what efforts" the National Archives is taking "to ensure that any additional records that have been turned over to NARA are not lost or destroyed" and if NARA knows of any other records that've been destroyed. 

The letter also inquires as to whether or not Ferriero has alerted the Attorney General of Trump's removal of archives from the White House.