A law forbidding presidents from destroying or mishandling records could be why FBI agents searched Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home

·3 min read
A law forbidding presidents from destroying or mishandling records could be why FBI agents searched Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home
A police officer, police car, and police lights outside of Mar-a-Lago
Police near former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, on August 8, 2022, in the wake of an FBI search of the property.AP Photo/Terry Renna
  • Trump said the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida on Monday.

  • Reports and his son Eric connected the raid to documents Trump removed from the White House.

  • Under the Presidential Records Act, presidents don't own and can't destroy records from their administration.

FBI agents executed a search warrant Monday on former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, prompting a furious reaction from Trump and his allies.

The search appears to be over material that Trump brought back to Florida after leaving the White House. That decision spurred a federal investigation, and likely the search on Monday, linked to the Presidential Records Act.

Forbidden from destroying, mishandling records

The Washington Post reported in February that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asked the Department of Justice to investigate if Trump violated the act when he brought the boxes of documents to Mar-a-Lago from the White House.

NARA said that Trump had taken 15 boxes to Mar-a-Lago, but returned them earlier this year. A grand jury was formed, per The New York Times, to invstigate whether the documents were mishandled.

Under the Presidential Records Act, presidential records are public property. Presidents are obliged to store them properly, and not to destroy them.

The act defines a presidential records as "any documentary materials relating to the political activities of the President or members of the President's staff" — a broad definition which could cover huge amounts of material, from formal records of meetings to scribbled notes. There is an exemption for records deemed strictly personal.

The act was passed in 1978, six years after the Watergate scandal in which former President Richard Nixon attempted to destroy tapes of White House conversations.

Presidents, as well as White House staff, are expected to preserve documents they receive while in office and to give them to NARA when their presidency ends. They are forbidden under the act from destroying or mishandling records.

Trump has a reputation for disliking physical records and disparaging people for creating them. The Mueller investigation, published in 2019, included a conversation where Trump told off White House counsel Don McGahn for taking notes.

Politico reported in 2018 that Trump had a habit of ripping up paper records, which federal employees then had to tape back together.

Reports have also alleged that Trump had a habit of flushing pieces of paper down toilets, including in the White House.

Trump continued to tear up documents throughout his presidency even after at two chiefs of staff and the White House counsel urged him to not to, citing the Presidential Records Act, a Washington Post investigation found.

Searching for documents

The warrant came after NARA asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Trump broke the law when he took the documents to Mar-a-Lago, Insider's Lauren Frias reported.

And multiple people with knowledge of the search told The New York Times that the search on Monday appeared to be focused on the documents, as did a source cited by the Reuters news agency.

Eric Trump, Trump's son, said in a Fox News interview after the raid that his father took "boxes" with him when he left the White House.

He said the search appeared to be instigated by NARA, and objected to seeking the records via a warrant instead of by request.

"If you want to search for anything, if you think anything — like, come right ahead," Trump said. "It was an open-door policy."

Read the original article on Business Insider