The National Archives and Records Service (NARA) publicly refuted the lie promoted by former President Donald Trump that former presidents accepted presidential records with them when they leave their posts or kept them in “substandard conditions”.
“Reports indicating or implying that these presidential records were in the possession of former Presidents or their representatives after they left office, or that the records were kept in poor conditions, are false and misleading,” NARA said. on Tuesday in an unusual statement. .
Trump, who existed fighting with the government about the records he moved from the White House to his Florida residence in Mar-a-Lago on Sunday drew incomplete and inaccurate comparisons to his predecessors’ handling of their records when they left the White House. He told a rally in Arizona that former President Bill Clinton’s records were moved “from the White House to a former car dealership in Arkansas,” that former President Barack Obama “moved more than 20 trucks, over 33 million pages of documents, and both secret and unclassified, in a shoddy and completely unsafe former furniture store located in a rather bad neighborhood in Chicago” and George W. Bush “stored 68 million pages in a warehouse in Texas.”
In each of these cases, it was NARA that announced where the presidential records would be processed and stored while the presidential libraries were being built. In May 2000, for example, the Archives issued a press release saying that the location chosen for the Clinton archives was the “former Balch Motor Company,” located in Little Rock, about 1.5 miles from “the site of future Clinton Presidential Library.” NARA negotiated the lease and would operate the 42,000-square-foot facility until the library opens, its release said.
Perhaps the most dramatic accusation Trump made was the claim that the former President George HW Bush “He got millions and millions of documents in a former bowling alley along with an old and broken Chinese restaurant. They put them together. And it had a broken front door and broken windows. Other than that, it was pretty safe.”
As Politifact notes, citing an Associated Press excerpt from the 1990s, it is true that documents and memorabilia from the George HW Bush White House were housed in “an old bowling alley” and “what used to be the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant ». while his library was being built in College Station, Texas.
But it was much safer than Trump’s performance. The AP noted:
“Uniformed guards patrol the premises. There are closed circuit television screens and sophisticated electronic detectors along the walls and doors. Some printed material is classified and will remain so for years. It is open only to those with top secret clearances.”
The Bush records were curated, cataloged, and organized by an acting director from NARA and 10 researchers.
What used to be a bowling alley was filled with rows of shelves to store campaign memorabilia, and 58 rows of shelves held boxes of Bush White House documents, according to the AP.
In response to a request for comment, the Bush Library sent NARA’s initial response.
NARA said in its statement that it took over “physical and legal custody of the Presidential Records” from the administrations of former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan when they left office.
The National Archives explained that the records are first going to temporary facilities leased by the General Services Administration (GSA) and near where their “built-for-NARA” presidential libraries will be located. The temporary facilities are managed and staffed “exclusively by NARA employees,” the NARA statement said.