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National Archives receives threats and praise for its role in Trump documents case, but doesn’t want either, letter says

By Zachary Cohen and Devan Cole, CNN

The National Archives and Records Administration says it has received both threats and praise from members of the public for its role in the ongoing dispute over Donald Trump‘s handling of sensitive government records after he left office, including messages accusing employees of corruption and conspiring against the former President, or congratulating them for “bringing him down,” according to a letter sent to all NARA employees by the acting Archivist last week.

The notice from acting Archivist Debra Wall underscores the polarizing response to the ongoing dispute over Trump’s handling of government records, including documents with classified markings, that ultimately prompted the FBI to search his Mar-a-Lago residence earlier this month. And it demonstrates how the Archives — an agency that seldom gets much national attentional — is having to contend with its unique position in the center of a highly sensitive political and legal drama.

In the letter, Wall reiterated the facts of NARA’s role in a months-long effort to recover documents from Trump’s Florida resort — particularly as it has evolved into a criminal investigation by the Justice Department — defending the agency’s communication with Trump associates and the DOJ.

“The National Archives has been the focus of intense scrutiny for months, this week especially, with many people ascribing political motivation to our actions. NARA has received messages from the public accusing us of corruption and conspiring against the former President, or congratulating NARA for ‘bringing him down,'” she wrote.

“Neither is accurate or welcome,” Wall added. “For the past 30-plus years as a NARA career civil servant, I have been proud to work for a uniquely and fiercely non-political government agency, known for its integrity and its position as an ‘honest broker.’ This notion is in our establishing laws and in our very culture. I hold it dear, and I know you do, too.”

The Washington Post first reported on the letter and the agency released it on Monday.

Wall also acknowledged in her statement that in February, then-Archivist David Ferriero shared with NARA employees “information about Trump Administration Presidential records and the National Archives.”

“In NARA Notice 2022-082 and NARA Notice 2022-087, he wrote that NARA received 15 boxes that contained Presidential records from former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida, including items marked as classified national security information, and, accordingly, had been in communication with the Department of Justice,” she wrote.

“He also shared that NARA staff did not visit or ‘raid’ the Mar-a-Lago property; that representatives of President Trump informed us that they were continuing to search for additional Presidential records that belong to the National Archives; and that some of the records we received at the end of the Trump Administration included paper records that had been torn up,” the letter adds.

In its search earlier this month, the FBI recovered 11 sets of classified documents, including some materials marked as “top secret/SCI” — one of the highest levels of classification. CNN has previously reported that the Archives had been working throughout 2021 to get presidential records back from Trump.

Wall’s statement comes as Trump is asking a federal judge to appoint a “special master” — a third-party attorney — to oversee the review of evidence gathered in the FBI’s search. The judge handling his request has put both Trump’s team and the DOJ on notice that she had a “preliminary intent” to appoint a special master, though she cautioned that it should not be construed as her final decision on the matter. She has scheduled a hearing for Thursday in Florida.

The new statement represents the latest defense the agency has had to make this month following the search.

After Trump baselessly suggested former President Barack Obama had mishandled presidential records after leaving office by, Trump claimed, keeping more than 30 million documents, many of them classified, and taking them to Chicago, NARA issued a statement explaining it has “exclusive legal and physical custody” of the Obama-era records.

It added that NARA itself moved about 30 million pages of unclassified records to one of its own facilities in the Chicago area, that the classified Obama-era records are maintained in a separate NARA facility near Washington, and that “former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the Presidential records of his Administration.”

This story has been updated with additional details.

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CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, Tierney Sneed, Holmes Lybrand and Daniel Dale contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: National-World

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