Court Battles

Judge rejects lawsuit over Trump’s lack of records of meetings with foreign leaders

A judge on Monday rejected a lawsuit against President Trump over not keeping records of his meetings with foreign leaders.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee, ruled in a 22-page decision that past legal precedents say she cannot monitor the White House’s enforcement of laws on how executive branch records are kept.

Because the lawsuit concerns how the White House acted, instead of the legality of the policies on keeping records, she said she did not have the power to ensure the White House followed those policies. 

“The Court is bound by Circuit precedent to find that it lacks authority to oversee the President’s day-to-day compliance with the statutory provisions involved in this case,” Jackson wrote.

“This opinion will not address, and should not be interpreted to endorse, the challenged practices; nor does it include any finding that the Executive Office [of the President] is in compliance with its obligations,” she wrote.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the National Security Archive and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) sued the administration after reports found that the White House allegedly was not keeping up with record obligations.

The groups said that State Department officials, including language interpreters, were not included in White House meetings with foreign officials. 

The groups called attention to specific meetings that left out State officials and language interpreters, including between the president and Russian or North Korean officials and between Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Saudi officials.

“We’re obviously disappointed to see today’s ruling,” CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz said in a statement obtained by The Hill. “Our legal team is currently reviewing it to determine any potential future action.”

Lauren Harper, a spokesperson for the National Security Archive, told The Hill that an appeal to the D.C. Circuit court is planned.

“The big takeaways for us on this case are that Judge Jackson effectively calls on Congress to revisit the records laws and the unfettered control of the Executive,” she said in a statement.

SHAFR President Kristin Hoganson said the current laws assume the president will act in good faith to keep records of meetings with foreign officials, adding that the country needs “stronger legislation” for presidents who may “purposefully seek to evade the law.”

“This is a hit to our nation’s documentary record,” Hoganson said of the ruling. “Allowing the president to cut deals with foreign leaders without leaving any kind of record harms our democracy as well as our security.”

—Updated at 1:05 p.m.

Tags Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Donald Trump foreign leaders Jared Kushner National Security Archive Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations White House
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