Dec 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Government watchdog sues Trump, Kushner and WH to prevent records being destroyed

President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Thanksgiving
President Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images

A government watchdog group filed a lawsuit against President Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and the White House on Tuesday to prevent them from destroying records during his remaining time in office.

Why it matters: The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and other groups allege in their suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, that Trump and his administration are violating the Presidential Records Act by failing to properly preserve records of official government business.

Driving the news: The groups are calling on the White House to rescind an official policy that allows staff to preserve screenshots of information sent on non-official messaging platforms as official presidential records.

  • The screenshots don't capture each message's metadata and are, thus, not complete copies, contend CREW and the other plaintiffs — the National Security Archive, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the American Historical Association.
  • They say Kushner has "admitted using non-official messaging accounts like WhatsApp to conduct official White House business, relying on screenshots alone to satisfy his record-keeping obligations."

What else they're saying: By adopting a policy that allows White House staff to capture and preserve only parts of electronic messages on unofficial messaging accounts, the White House is "permitting the loss and destruction" of important presidential records, CREW said in a statement.

  • "This is part of a larger pattern of the President and the White House ignoring, if not flouting, their obligation to create and preserve records memorializing official actions and decisions."
"With the President facing potential legal and financial exposure once he leaves office, there is a growing risk that he will destroy records of his presidency before leaving."
— CREW statement
  • The White House declined to comment on the case.

Read the lawsuit, via DocumentCloud:

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