National Archives asks DOJ to investigate Trump's handling of White House records

The Archives recently retrieved 15 boxes of records from Mar-a-Lago.

February 10, 2022, 2:41 PM

The National Archives has asked the Justice Department to investigate former President Donald Trump's handling of White House records, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday.

The request follows recent reporting around Trump's handling of documents following his departure from the White House last year, including earlier this week when the Archives confirmed it recently retrieved 15 boxes of records from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida that were improperly taken in violation of the Presidential Records Act.

The news was first reported by The Washington Post.

A source confirmed to ABC News that discussions in the department around the Archives' referral are in the very early stages, and it is not clear whether DOJ would open a formal investigation into the matter.

Legal experts reached by ABC News earlier this week expressed skepticism that the department would take the unusual step of seeking criminal charges against a former president for violating the Presidential Records Act.

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump prepares to speak at a rally in Florence, Ariz., Jan. 15, 2022.
Former President Donald Trump prepares to speak at a rally in Florence, Ariz., Jan. 15, 2022.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

A DOJ spokesperson declined to comment on the referral. The National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Trump provided the following response to ABC News in response to an inquiry on the Archives' referral:

"Following collaborative and respectful discussions, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) arranged for the transport of boxes that contained Presidential Records in compliance with the Presidential Records Act. Much of this material will someday be displayed in the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library for the public to view my Administration’s incredible accomplishments for the American People.

"The media’s characterization of my relationship with NARA is Fake News. It was exactly the opposite! It was a great honor to work with NARA to help formally preserve the Trump Legacy."

The House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday announced it would investigate, sending a letter to the National Archives seeking more information.

"I am deeply concerned that these records ... appear to have been removed from the White House in violation of the Presidential Records Act (PRA)," Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a statement. "I am also concerned by recent reports that while in office, President Trump repeatedly attempted to destroy presidential records, which could constitute additional serious violations of the PRA."

Trump also denied a report on Thursday that White House staffers believed the then-president may have been flushing documents down the toilet.

As reported by Axios, an upcoming book by the New York Times' Maggie Haberman says that staff in the White House residence periodically discovered a toilet had been clogged by wads of printed paper, which they believed had been flushed down the commode by Trump.

"Another fake story, that I flushed papers and documents down a White House toilet, is categorically untrue and simply made up by a reporter in order to get publicity for a mostly fictitious book," Trump said in a statement. "The Democrats are just using this and the Unselect Committee of political hacks as a camoflauge (sp) for how horribly our Country is doing under the Biden Administration."

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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