WASHINGTON — The National Archives informed Congress on Friday that members of the Trump White House still had not turned over all presidential records and signaled there could be legal consequences for those who do not comply.
In a letter sent to the House Oversight Committee, Debra Steidel Wall, the acting U.S. archivist, said the archives was working to retrieve electronic messages from certain unnamed White House officials who had used personal email and messaging accounts to conduct official business.
Wall wrote that the archives would consult the Justice Department about whether to “initiate an action for the recovery of records unlawfully removed.”
“While there is no easy way to establish absolute accountability, we do know that we do not have custody of everything we should,” Wall wrote to Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the chair of the Oversight Committee.
Wall cited an August filing by the Justice Department to recover official email records from the personal account of Peter Navarro, a former Trump adviser. Navarro is facing charges of contempt of Congress after he refused to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
In her letter, Wall declined to say whether former President Donald Trump had surrendered all presidential records in his possession.
“With respect to the second issue concerning whether former President Trump has surrendered all presidential records, we respectfully refer you to the Department of Justice in light of its ongoing investigation,” she wrote.
“The National Archives has confirmed to the Oversight Committee that they still have not received all presidential records from the Trump White House,” Maloney said in a statement. “Presidential records are the property of the American people, and it is outrageous that these records remain unaccounted for 20 months after former President Trump left office.”
Maloney had requested a formal assessment from the archives of what presidential records remained unaccounted for and whether the archives believed any were potentially still in Trump’s possession.
Maloney also requested that the archives “seek a personal certification from Donald Trump that he has surrendered all presidential records that he illegally removed from the White House after leaving office.”
The federal government tried and failed for more than a year and a half to retrieve classified and sensitive documents from Trump before resorting Aug. 8 to a search of his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, according to government documents and statements by his lawyers.
Two months before the search, Trump’s lawyer certified that all documents bearing classified markings had been returned and that no “copy, written notation or reproduction of any kind was retained.”
Yet the FBI search revealed that the former president still had more than 11,000 government records, including more than 100 with classified markings and documents with the highest classification markings, some related to human intelligence sources. There were additional classified documents in Trump’s office desk drawer.
The search also turned up 48 folders with classified markings that were empty. Although it was unclear why they were empty, the committee said, the apparent separation of classified material and presidential records from their designated folders raised questions about how the materials were stored and whether sensitive material might have been lost or obtained by third parties.