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National Archives confirms: Trump's lying about records (again)

Last month, the National Archives felt compelled to say Donald Trump was lying about presidential records. Now, the Archives is having to say it again.


As a rule, the National Archives has no interest in contemporary political debates. It’s a non-partisan, apolitical agency that has nothing to contribute to assorted fights between partisans.

But every once in a while, officials at the Archives feel the need to speak up in response to controversies related to their work.

Last month, for example, Donald Trump insisted that Barack Obama had kept classified documents after leaving the White House. A day later, the National Archives and Records Administration issued a written statement, making clear that the Republican was brazenly lying. (Trump, incidentally, continued to push the claim anyway, even after it was discredited.)

But as it turns out, that was just part of a larger rhetorical push. Desperate to come up with some kind of coherent defense for his Mar-a-Lago scandal, Trump has fixated recently on the idea that his modern predecessors did the same thing he did, which should effectively render the controversy moot. As we’ve discussed, as far as the Republican is concerned, the everybody-does-it defense will be the one thing that gets him out of this mess.

The problem, of course, is that this entire defense is ridiculous.

Over the weekend, Trump not only said that Obama had taken sensitive materials, he also claimed that George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton had all taken documents to unsecured locations. In the case of H.W. Bush, Trump insisted that the late president took millions of documents to a venue where “there was no security.”

And so, the National Archives felt compelled to once again assure the public that Trump has no idea what he’s talking about it. The written statement, issued yesterday, read:

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in accordance with the Presidential Records Act, assumed physical and legal custody of the Presidential records from the administrations of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, when those Presidents left office. NARA securely moved these records to temporary facilities that NARA leased from the General Services Administration (GSA), near the locations of the future Presidential Libraries that former Presidents built for NARA. All such temporary facilities met strict archival and security standards, and have been managed and staffed exclusively by NARA employees. Reports that indicate or imply that those Presidential records were in the possession of the former Presidents or their representatives, after they left office, or that the records were housed in substandard conditions, are false and misleading.

In other words, the Archives wants the public to know that Trump’s lie includes two parts. First, the Republican has insisted that his predecessors had their own documents, which isn’t true, since NARA maintained control of the materials.

And second, while Trump expects people to believe his predecessors’ records were kept at unsecured locations, NARA explained that this is also wrong.

Again, it’s quite likely that Archives officials didn’t want to issue such a statement, but since a former president continues to lie about its work and its records, they apparently saw value in setting the record straight for the public.

If recent history is any guide, Trump will ignore the NARA statement and continue to push the identical lie anyway.