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National Archives Bluntly Fact-Checks Trump's Claim That Bush And Clinton Mishandled Presidential Documents

National Archives Bluntly Fact-Checks Trump's Claim That Bush And Clinton Mishandled Presidential Documents
Mario Tama/Getty Images

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) offered a blunt fact-check after former Republican President Donald Trump claimed during a rally in Arizona that past Presidents have taken presidential documents with them when they leave office or kept them in "substandard conditions."

Trump has been embroiled in an ongoing investigation into his theft of classified and top secret documents from the White House retrieved from his Mar-a-Lago estate in August. He recently petitioned the Supreme Court—which is stacked with conservatives he appointed—in an effort to prevent the Department of Justice (DOJ) from reviewing the confidential materials he took in violation of several laws.

Speaking at a rally in Mesa, Arizona on Sunday, October 9, Trump lied to his MAGA minions about several past Presidents mishandling documents.

Trump said Democratic President Bill Clinton's records were taken "from the White House to a former car dealership" in Arkansas. He also said Democrat Barack Obama "moved more than 20 truckloads, over 33 million pages of documents, both classified and unclassified, to a poorly built and totally unsafe former furniture store located in a rather bad neighborhood in Chicago."

He also took aim at George W. Bush—a Republican and Trump critic—saying he "stored 68 million pages in a warehouse in Texas."

He even went after George H.W. Bush—the former's father—saying the elder Bush had taken "millions and millions of documents to a former bowling alley pieced together with what was then an old and broken Chinese restaurant."

NARA disputed each and every one of these tall tales in a press release calling Trump's statements "false and misleading."

NARA said the site they selected for Clinton's records was "formerly the Balch Motor Company" located in Little Rock, about 1.5 miles from "the site of the future Clinton Presidential Library."

The agency noted NARA negotiated the library's lease and would operate the facility until its opening.

The agency noted in its release NARA took "physical and legal custody of the Presidential Records" from the administrations of every former President since Republican Ronald Reagan left office in 1989.

It said all records go to temporary facilities leased from the General Services Administration (GSA), close to the site of future presidential libraries managed and staffed "exclusively by NARA employees."

Trump and his lies were immediately criticized.

In the months since the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump and his allies claimed he had no documents and the FBI planted them then he had the ability to declassify confidential information and documents telepathically, claims disputed by experts who noted there is a specific federal process that must be adhered to before any information can be declassified if they're eligible for declassification.

Trump—like all Presidents since the establishment of the Presidential Records Act of 1978—was required by federal law to turn over all documents to NARA regardless of classification. Instead, NARA noted Trump took them with him to Mar-a-Lago.

Mar-a-Lago is accessible by any individual who can pay the membership fee and members of the public who book facilities or attend events at the resort such as weddings or birthday parties. Surveillance video from Mar-a-Lago seemed to indicate the documents Trump took were not guarded or always kept in a locked room—despite some being classified or top secret.

Earlier this year and months before the search warrant was executed by the FBI, there were reports that while in office Trump regularly tore up documents and memos after reading them and even flushed some papers down the toilet.

Those reports were preceded by news The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had retrieved from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate White House record boxes containing important communication records, gifts and letters from world leaders all required to be turned over to NARA.