National Archives obtained 15 boxes of presidential records from Mar-a-Lago

Andrew J. Davis
Palm Beach Daily News

PALM BEACH, Florida - The National Archives last month obtained 15 boxes of presidential records that were being stored at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club. 

Keeping the boxes of records at Mar-a-Lago violated the Presidential Records Act, which requires the government keep all forms of documents and communications related to a president's or vice president's official duties.

"As required by the Presidential Records Act the records should have been transferred to NARA from the White House at the end of the Trump Administration in January 2021,” the National Archives and Records Administration said in a statement on Monday.

President Donald J. Trump cast an early ballot for the 2020 presidential election at the main branch of the Palm Beach County library on Summit Blvd. in West Palm Beach, Saturday October 22, 2020. When asked who he voted for, the President replied, “Some guy named Trump.” (JOSEPH FORZANO / THE PALM BEACH POST)

Presidential library:Talk of a Donald Trump presidential library has some open records watchdogs wary

The Washington Post first reported the story.

"In mid-January 2022, NARA arranged for the transport from the Trump Mar-a-Lago property in Florida to the National Archives of 15 boxes that contained Presidential records, following discussions with President Trump’s representatives in 2021," the National Archives said.

Trump’s representatives are continuing to search for additional records that belong to the National Archives, the agency said.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the National Archives stated how the records were returned.

"Throughout the course of the last year, NARA obtained the cooperation of Trump representatives to locate presidential records that had not been transferred to the National Archives at the end of the Trump administration. When a representative informed NARA in December 2021 that they had located some records, NARA arranged for them to be securely transported to Washington.

"NARA officials did not visit or 'raid' the Mar-a-Lago property.''

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2021, file photo, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. Former President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach club has been partially closed because of a COVID outbreak. That’s according to several people familiar with the situation, including a club member who received a phone call informing them of the closure Friday. A receptionist at Mar-a-Lago club confirmed the news, saying that the club was closed until further notice, but declined to comment further.  (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post via AP)

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said, “The Presidential Records Act is critical to our democracy, in which the government is held accountable by the people.

"Whether through the creation of adequate and proper documentation, sound records management practices, the preservation of records, or the timely transfer of them to the National Archives at the end of an administration, there should be no question as to need for both diligence and vigilance. Records matter.”

Several media outlets reported that the documents retrieved included correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that Trump had described as "love letters" as well as a letter former President Barack Obama left ahead of Trump's inauguration.

Trump advisers told the Washington Post that they deny "any nefarious intent" and said the 15 boxes contained "mementos, gifts, letters from world leaders and other correspondence."

The question over documents comes as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has sought Trump administration records from the Archives. The Supreme Court last month denied Mr. Trump’s emergency request to block the House panel from obtaining White House records related to the attack.

The records’ removal will be investigated, said House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. In a statement, she called it “deeply troubling but not surprising.”

President Donald Trump delivers remarks at Turning Point USA Student Action Summit at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019.  [ALLEN EYESTONE/palmbeachpost.com]

In 2018, the Palm Beach Post reported that two watchdog groups asked the Trump administration to stop his practice of tearing up White House documents and papers. In 2018, Politico published an interview with two former White House staffers who said they worked full-time to re-assemble and tape back together papers the president had ripped up. Other staffers in the White House are assigned to retrieve the pieces that Trump leaves on the floor and in trash cans.

More:Watchdogs, scholars say Trump breaking law by ripping up papers

The Presidential Records Act requires that all presidential documents, from diaries to drafts of speeches, be retained, both for current reference and the historical record. Although the law gives the president the responsibility for the custody and management of the records, it does not allow him to decide which records should be kept or destroyed.

That power lies with the National Archives and Records Administration, which reviews the records and determines if they qualify for inclusion in the presidential archive.