Roberts in the 80s Was Hostile to Release of Records





Journalists have discovered one document of particular interest to historians and archivists as it relates to John Roberts's views on government openness with respect to presidential records and the Presidential Records Act (PRA).

On 29 August 1985, in his capacity as a lawyer for President Reagan, Roberts vigorously argued that White House internal files should be kept secret and should not be released even to the U.S. Senate if requested by that body to win confirmation for a presidential nominee slotted for a senior government post. Roberts argued that the White House should not facilitate document release and suggested, "Hill staffers need only go to the Reagan Library to see any internal White House deliberative document they want to see." Roberts stated, "We should take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the general opening of files to Hill scrutiny...does not become routine."

Furthermore, Roberts characterized the Presidential Records Act of 1978 which provides for the eventual opening of virtually all documents housed in a president's library as "pernicious." In taking these positions, Roberts views are consistent with those held by many senior Bush administration officials who have repeatedly opposed actions that they consider to be an erosion of presidential prerogatives and powers.


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