Nov 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Top Democrat introduces bill to strengthen presidential record keeping as DOJ investigates Trump

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, wearing a blue suit, speaks at a lecturn during a portrait unveiling at a House committee chamber.

House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, on Monday introduced legislation to strengthen the laws that govern how presidential administrations preserve records.

Why it matters: The legislation is a response to the Trump administration’s spotty record-keeping and comes as the Justice Department is investigating former President Trump for allegedly illegally retaining materials after leaving office.

The details: The bill – the Presidential Records Certification Act of 2022 – would require the president, vice president and other White House officials to provide annual written certification to the White House counsel that they are in compliance with the Presidential Records Act.

  • An individual who lies or doesn’t file the certification would be vulnerable to a lawsuit from the Justice Department that could result in a civil penalty of up to $50,000.

The backdrop: As part of the Oversight panel’s investigation into Trump’s post-presidential handling of documents, Maloney pressed the National Archives in September to seek such a certification from Trump.

  • “I urge NARA to seek a personal certification from Donald Trump that he has surrendered all presidential records that he illegally removed from the White House after leaving office,” she wrote at the time to acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall.

What they’re saying: Maloney, in a statement, alleged Trump “threatened our national security through his flagrant violations of the Presidential Records Act.”

  • “Even as we continue to investigate the full extent of this troubling conduct and the damage it has caused, it is clear that our law needs reform to prevent future abuses,” she said.
  • Trump's team did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Reality check: The bill faces considerable procedural and political hurdles, including that Maloney won’t be in Congress next year after losing her August primary.

  • The Senate filibuster also sets a high bar for passage in the chamber, even if House Democrats did fit the bill into their already lengthy list of legislative agenda items for a lame-duck session.
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