Washington, Oct. 1, 2019 — A judge should grant a temporary restraining order against President Trump and the Executive Office of the President mandating them to preserve records of the president’s communications and meetings with foreign leaders, according to a court filing by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), National Security Archive and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.
In May, the three plaintiffs filed a lawsuit to compel Trump’s compliance with the Presidential Records Act, alleging that he has engaged in a pattern and practice of violating the law when it comes to meetings and communications with foreign leaders. Recent revelations about the White House’s handling of records of a conversation between Trump and the president of Ukraine make that concern even more acute, as they expose recordkeeping practices by the White House that are specifically designed to conceal the president’s abuse of his power.
“It has become increasingly evident that this president has no respect for legally required record-keeping if he thinks the record could make him look bad — or worse, reveal wrongdoing,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “This is an emergency, and we are asking the judge to treat it as such.”
The whistleblower complaint released last week reveals that President Trump engaged in extraordinary misconduct by asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, Trump’s political rival. The complaint alleges that White House and other executive branch officials have mismanaged records of politically sensitive conversations between President Trump and foreign leaders.
“The whistleblower complaint suggests that key records are being mishandled,” said SHAFR President Barbara Keys. “This adds to a troubling pattern of administration attempts to conceal from Americans important information about what their president has said and done on their behalf. The restraining order aims simply to ensure that records ultimately owned by the American people are not torn up, misfiled, or not created in the first place.”
In light of these revelations, the plaintiffs sought assurances from the president and the Executive Office of the President that evidence relevant to our case would be preserved, as is customary in federal civil litigation. They declined to give these assurances, leaving the plaintiffs no other choice but to request the temporary restraining order.