Lawsuit Saves Trump White House Records

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tags: archives, Donald Trump, primary sources, Presidential Records

Washington, D.C., February 11, 2021 – The National Security Archive et. al. v. Donald J. Trump et. al. lawsuit, filed December 1, 2020 to prevent a possible bonfire of records in the Rose Garden, achieved a formal litigation hold on White House records that lasted all the way through the transition and Inauguration Day, the preservation of controversial WhatsApp messages, and a formal change in White House records policy.

The Archive worked with co-plaintiffs – the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) and the American Historical Association (AHA), as well as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) – to bring the case under the records laws, against President Trump, the Executive Office of the President, and the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA).

The lawsuit argued that Trump White House policy that only saved via screen shots the instant messages of government business – such as Jared Kushner’s negotiations with Saudi prince bin Salman – failed to capture the complete record that the law required.  Plaintiffs pointed to repeated media accounts of White House failures to preserve records, including President Trump’s reported ripping up of documents in the Oval Office, former aide Steve Bannon’s use of disappearing instant messages to communicate with campaign embeds at the agencies, private email use by Ivanka Trump and other top officials, and the routine use of encrypted WhatsApp messages by Kushner and others.

Justice Department lawyers defending against the lawsuit have informed plaintiffs that White House records managers have now successfully deployed an archival tool in the WhatsApp software to capture full copies including links and attachments of the WhatsApp threads in Kushner’s account and other WhatsApp users at the White House.

According to lawyers for the National Archives, they have also preserved a complete set of President Trump’s tweets, including the ones he subsequently deleted; and records managers had previously deployed tools developed by ArchiveSocial and Smarsh to preserve other social media messages from White House staff, including Facebook posts, tweets, and Instagrams, and required users of personal email to export any official business emails over to official email archiving systems.

Read entire article at National Security Archive

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