Court Battles

Trump, Kushner, White House sued by watchdog to prevent illegal deletion of official emails, WhatsApp messages

A government watchdog group is suing President Trump, his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, and the White House to prevent the deletion of official emails and WhatsApp messages before they can be archived. 

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), among other plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit accuses the president and the White House of violating the Presidential Records Act (PRA) by not correctly preserving records of official government business. 

CREW and the other plaintiffs that collect presidential records argue that the White House’s preservation policy allows for important information to slip through the cracks and not be saved. They also say the president has “planned or executed destruction” of records without notifying the archivist or Congress as required by law.

They say they are attempting to get the judicial system to be involved and require further documentation before Trump leaves office in January.

“With the approaching onset of a new president, much public attention has focused on the likelihood that President Trump, or White House personnel acting at his behest, will destroy records of his presidency before he leaves office, fearing the consequences to him and his legacy should they become public,” the complaint reads. 

“With President Trump’s term in office soon coming to an end, absent judicial intervention this conduct will permanently deprive Plaintiffs and the public of records documenting a critical part of our nation’s history,” the lawsuit alleges. 

The other plaintiffs in the case include the National Security Archive, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the American Historical Association.

The groups are challenging the White House’s policy to allow screenshots to be adequate record-keeping when forwarded from personal electronic messaging accounts to official accounts. 

They say the screenshot leaves out the electronic data, including “metadata, attachments, functionality, or other digital artifacts needed to authenticate the message,” thus violating the PRA’s requirement for a “complete record.”

“The Trump Administration acts in accordance with statutory requirements,” the White House said in a statement.

The lawsuit says Kushner participated in “the knowing and routine failure” of keeping “‘complete copies’ of all Presidential records created or sent from his non-official electronic messaging accounts.”

“Given the central role Mr. Kushner has played in implementing the domestic and foreign policies of the Trump administration, the missing information is likely to yield historically important details about what the Trump administration did and why,” the groups said in the complaint.

The lawsuit also names the National Archives and Records Administration and David Ferriero, the archivist of the U.S., as defendants, saying they failed to take action to address the screenshotting policy.

Tags American Historical Association Biden transition Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Donald Trump Inauguration Jared Kushner Lawsuits National Security Archive presidential records screenshots Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations White House

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