The US Department of Justice on Wednesday filed a notice with the US District Court for the District of Columbia indicating that White House personnel had been instructed to preserve all presidential records according to the Presidential Records Act.
This notice was filed in response to requests by US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson for voluntary assurances that relevant records would be preserved.
The memo sent to White House personnel was included with this court notice. This memo defines what materials fall under the umbrella term of “presidential records” and outlines the steps personnel in the Executive Office need to take in order to preserve such records.
“Presidential records” comprise any “documentary materials … created or received by the President, the President’s immediate staff, or a unit or individual of the Executive Office of the President … in the course of conducting activities which relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President.”
Examples of these records include memos, emails, drafted comments, audio recordings, video footage and other written communications. Everything that relates to the president’s official duties requires preservation, and this protection extends to cover both paper and electronic forms.
To preserve these documents, White House officials and staff are required to exclusively use their official email accounts and to contact the White House Office of Records Management for paper records management instructions.
This notice was filed as part of the lawsuit led by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which had already been suing the Trump administration for record-keeping issues related to meetings with foreign leaders before the recent whistleblower report.