Updated Oct 3, 2022 - Politics & Policy

National Archives asked Trump's lawyers for Kim Jong-Un correspondence in May 2021

Photo of Donald Trump looking to his left

Former President Trump looks over at the crowd as he speaks during a Save America rally on Oct. 1, 2022 in Warren, Michigan. Photo: Emily Elconin via Getty Images

The National Archives asked former President Trump's lawyers to account for correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in May 2021 as part of a bid to locate boxes of presidential records, according to email correspondence released Monday.

Why it matters: Exactly eight weeks since the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago, the former president and his legal team have still not explained why he took more than 11,000 government documents and refused to return them on request.

Details: On May 6, 2021, National Archives General Counsel Gary Stern asked Trump's lawyers for their "immediate assistance to ensure that NARA receives all Presidential records as required by the Presidential Records Act."

  • "For example, the original correspondence between President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un were not transferred to us; it is our understanding that in January 2021, just prior to the end of the Administration, the originals were put in a binder for the President, but were never returned to the Office of Records Management for transfer to NARA."
  • "It is essential that these original records be transferred to NARA as soon as possible," wrote Stern, who also pointed to a missing letter from former President Obama.
  • "We know things were very chaotic, as they always are in the course of a one-term transition ... But it is absolutely necessary that we obtain and account for all original Presidential records."
  • Other requests released Monday referenced deleted Trump tweets that weren't properly archived.

The big picture: Under the Presidential Records Act, presidential records must be immediately transferred to the national archivist as soon as a president leaves office. Some of the documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago during the FBI's search were classified, according to the Justice Department.

  • Trump has claimed he had a "standing order" dictating that documents taken from the Oval Office to his residence were "deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them."
  • Former Attorney General Bill Barr and former national security adviser John Bolton, who both worked in the Trump administration, have disputed the claim.
  • Now embroiled in a legal battle with the DOJ, Trump faces a special master who appears deeply skeptical of the arguments put forth by his legal team.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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