- Trump reportedly left the White House in a hurry amid his obsession with overturning the election.
- But he managed to take at least 15 boxes of official White House records with him.
- The National Archives is in the processing of recovering the boxes from Mar-a-Lago.
President Donald Trump rushed to leave the White House last year as he spent his final weeks in office obsessed with trying to overturn his 2020 election loss, The New York Times reported.
Several books on the final days of the Trump presidency said many of the president’s aides and advisors had left the White House entirely or had largely checked out by the end of his term. The staff departures created a vacuum for figures like Trump’s then-lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other conspiracy-theory-wielding figures like the attorney Sidney Powell to try to convince him of quixotic ways that he could stay in power.
“At the time,” The Times wrote, the aides who remained “were either preoccupied with helping him overturn the election, trying to stop him or avoiding him.”
Trump did manage to take multiple boxes of important records and documents out of the White House and back to Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach, Florida, club and winter residence. His lawyers have been in negotiations with the National Archives for the boxes to be returned to the agency’s custody.
Both The Times and The Washington Post reported Trump carted off over a dozen boxes of White House materials, records, and other items that he should have turned over under the Presidential Records Act. The law requires White House officials to properly preserve official presidential correspondence and documentation, like memos, letters, emails, text messages, and social-media posts.
Some of the items in the boxes, according to The Times and The Post, included letters to Trump from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a note from former President Barack Obama, a map that Trump drew on with a Sharpie to mark a possible hurricane path to Alabama, and at least one piece of clothing.
Experts told The Post that Trump likely violated the 1970s law, passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal, by taking the documents to Florida with him.
The National Archives confirmed in a Monday statement that the agency had “arranged transport” for 15 boxes of records and materials to be returned from Mar-a-Lago into the agency’s custody. It added that Trump and his staff were “continuing to search for additional Presidential records that belong to the National Archives.”
David Ferriero, an archivist, said in the statement that compliance with the act was “critical to our democracy, in which government is accountable to the people” and that “there should be no question as to the need for diligence and vigilance.”
A spokesperson for Trump didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The agency has few to no tools at its disposal to enforce violations of the act and other federal record-keeping laws. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said she would open an investigation into the Trump administration’s lack of compliance with federal records laws.
Trump’s habit of tearing up official White House documents to destroy or dispose of them, a trend Politico first reported on in 2018, is now affecting the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
The National Archives, which has turned over at least 700 documents from the Trump White House to the committee, previously told The Post that some records “included paper records that had been torn up by former President Trump.” Some documents that had been torn up, they said, weren’t taped back together at all.
In addition to routinely tearing up documents in the Trump White House, officials would round up documents in “burn bags” and send them to the Pentagon to be incinerated, The Post reported.