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Trump may be violating federal record-keeping laws

March 13, 2017 (Photo Credit: Prasit photo via Getty Images)
House oversight leaders are raising concerns over potential violations of federal record-keeping laws after recent news reports of President Trump and various executive branch employees using unofficial email accounts, encrypting messages and deleting tweets.

In letters sent on March 8 to White House Counsel Don McGahn and 55 federal agencies, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and ranking member Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., questioned whether the president, vice president, White House officials and associated employees are conducting official business in “such a way as to preserve the official record of actions taken by the federal government and its employees.”

Reports that President Trump has deleted tweets from @POTUS and @realDonaldTrump could be a violation of the Presidential Record Act. The Obama administration avoided the issue by instituting auto-archiving. 

In addition, the reported use of nongovernmental email aliases and encrypted messaging apps such as Signal, Confide and WhatsApp could result in official decision-making communications that are unlikely or impossible to preserve, as required by the Federal Records Act.

“The need for data security … does not justify circumventing requirements established by federal recordkeeping and transparency laws,” reads an excerpt from the letter.

Chaffetz and Cummings have requested information on senior officials using personal email accounts to conduct official business, policies on all White House use of official and nonofficial messaging apps and social media platforms, procedures to assure communications are properly secured as presidential records, electronic systems used to archive White House email and training provided to White House personnel on the Presidential Records Act.

Agencies are requested to provide information on how they address the Federal Records Act, compliance with the Office of Management and Budget’s Managing Government Records Directive, and Freedom of Information Act requests for documents on private, encrypted and nonofficial accounts and social media platforms.

Responses to the letters have been requested by March 22.

The complete letters can be read here and here.  

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