Washington—President Trump and the Executive Office of the President appear to be violating the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and the Constitution’s requirement that the president “take care” that the laws be faithfully executed through the White House’s use of confidential messaging applications and other problematic practices including its destruction of the president’s tweets, according to a lawsuit filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive (NSA).
Under the PRA, the president and his office are legally required to maintain these records for eventual public access. President Trump’s own comments have added an additional question about whether he is creating and maintaining secret recordings in the Oval Office, the existence of which his spokespeople continue to refuse to confirm or deny.
“The American people not only deserve to know how their government is making important decisions, it’s the law,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “By deleting these records, the White House is destroying essential historical records.”
The PRA ensures the preservation and public availability of presidential and vice presidential records once the administration leaves office. Numerous news agencies report that officials in the Trump White House are using applications such as Signal and Confide to ensure the destruction of sensitive email messages in violation of the PRA.
“Thanks to Congress, since 2014, government employees have been required to copy any private server e-mail messages about government business to official systems within 20 days,” said National Security Archive director Tom Blanton. “Reports that Trump administration officials are disregarding this requirement – either by not following private e-mail protocol or by using encrypted messaging apps that prevent any kind of preservation – raise serious concerns that presidential records are at risk.”
The lawsuit also challenges the White House’s use of executive orders to remove decision-making on key issues from agencies, which would be subject to transparency requirements and an open process, and instead inappropriately cloak the process in secrecy.
CREW and NSA are also suing for the release of the White House visitor logs, which the Trump Administration stopped making public.