The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) publicly rebutted a falsehood promoted by former President Donald Trump that former presidents have embraced presidential records with them when they leave the office, or kept them in “substandard conditions”.
“Reports suggesting or implying that these presidential records were held by former presidents or their deputies after they left office, or that the records were stored in substandard conditions, are false and misleading,” NARA said in an unusual statement Tuesday. .
Trump who was fight the government the records he took from the White House to his Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago, on Sunday have drawn incomplete and inaccurate comparisons to how his predecessors handled their records when they left the White House. He told a rally in Arizona that former President Bill Clinton’s records were moved “from the White House to a former car dealership in Arkansas,” that former President Barack Obama “moved over 20 truckloads, over 33 million pages of documents, both classified. and unclassified, to a poorly constructed and downright dangerous former furniture store located in a pretty bad neighborhood in Chicago” and George W. Bush “stored 68 million pages in a warehouse in Texas”.
In each of these cases, it was NARA that announced where the presidential records would be processed and stored during the construction of the presidential libraries. For example, in May 2000 The archive issued a press release that the site chosen 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.” NARA has negotiated a lease and will operate the 42,000-square-foot facility until the library opens.
Perhaps the most dramatic accusation against Trump was the claim that the former President George HW Bush “They took millions and millions of documents to a former bowling alley put together with what was then an old and broken Chinese restaurant. They put them together. And it had a broken front door and broken windows. Other than that, it was pretty safe.”
As Politifact notes, pointing to an Associated Press clip from the 1990s, it is true that George HW Bush’s White House documents and memorabilia were housed in “an old bowling alley” and “what used to be a Chinese restaurant kitchen” while his library was being built in College Station, Texas.
But it was much safer than Trump’s release. The AP noted:
“Uniformed guards patrol the premises. Close-circuit television monitors and sophisticated electronic detectors are mounted on the walls and doors. Some printed material is classified and will remain so for years; it is only accessible to those with Top Secret clearance.”
Bush’s records were overseen, cataloged, and organized by NARA’s acting director and 10 researchers.
What had been a bowling alley was filled with rows of shelves containing campaign memorabilia, and 58 rows of shelves contained boxes of Bush White House documents, according to the AP.
In response to a request for comment, the Bush Library sent the original response to NARA.
In a statement, NARA said it took over “physical and legal custody of presidential records” from the administrations of former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan when they left office.
The National Archives explained that the records first travel to temporary facilities leased from the General Services Administration (GSA) and near where their “built-for-NARA” presidential libraries will be located. The temporary facilities are managed and staffed “exclusively by NARA staff,” according to a NARA statement.