NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 11: President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a news cenference at Trump Tower on January 11, 2017 in New York City. This is Trump's...
Spencer Platt

Team Trump may not have the campaign documents senators want to see

The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/26/17, 9:25 PM ET

Senate widens scope of Trump-Russia probe to whole campaign

Congressman Jim Himes discusses another night of blockbuster news on the Trump-Russia investigation and the scope of the investigation into the Donald Trump campaign.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the Russia scandal has been alarmingly slow, but we occasionally see evidence of activity. Indeed, late last week, we learned of an important new request for information – which Donald Trump’s team may not be able to answer.

The Washington Post reported that the top two members of the committee – Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-Va.) – asked Trump’s political organization “to gather and produce all Russia-related documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015.” Some former Trump campaign staffers, the article added, “have been notified and asked to cooperate.”

This is, to be sure, an important development: whenever there’s a bipartisan expansion of the investigation into the controversy, it matters.

But Politico reported that some in Trump World believe the materials the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to see may not exist.

Unlike the White House, which is subject to federal recordkeeping requirements, campaigns aren’t bound to preserve documents. But staffers may have some emails still backed up on their phones or computers, or documents – including calendars and other records that could wind up being critical for investigators.

Presidential campaigns tend to have short windows for maintaining emails on their private servers. And while they often do keep field plans, budgets and other critical personnel documents for archival or legal purposes, the retention policies for emails frequently mean all messages are automatically deleted within 30 to 90 days unless they’re specifically preserved.

Trump’s campaign, said a former senior aide, didn’t do much in the way of establishing a backup plan to preserve those digital records.

It’s difficult to say at this point whether this is true or not. Maybe Trump’s political operation largely ignored document retention, maybe these aides are laying the groundwork now, looking for an excuse to avoid complying with an official request.

Either way, let’s pause to appreciate the irony: in the midst of an FBI investigation, members of Donald Trump’s political operation deleted emails from what Politico described as private email servers.

Remind me: is that the sort of thing Republicans and news organizations find interesting?

Donald Trump and Scandals

Team Trump may not have the campaign documents senators want to see