House panel: Justice Department ‘disrupted’ Trump records investigation

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Congressional Monitoring Committee said Thursday that the Justice Department is “obstructing” its investigation by former President Donald Trump by blocking White House records from releasing information from the National Archives.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, accusing the Justice Department of obstructing the panel’s expanded investigation into 15 boxes of White House records, which Trump last sent to Florida after leaving office. He was taken to his Mar-a-Lago residence. The year. In February the archives revealed that it had found classified material in the boxes and referred the matter to the Justice Department.

Carolyn Maloney, D.Y., chair of the oversight committee, outlines communications between the committee and the National Archives that took place from February through the end of March.

In those letters, Maloney made a series of requests for information she said the committee needed to determine whether Trump violated federal records laws on handling sensitive and even classified information. Is. In response, the archivist’s general counsel wrote on March 28 that “based on our consultation with the Justice Department, we are unable to provide any comment.”

“By preventing NARA from presenting the documents requested by the Committee, the Department is obstructing the Committee’s investigation,” Maloney wrote in the letter released Thursday.

Maloney said the committee was not interfering with the department’s ongoing investigation, but lawmakers had received no explanation as to why the department was blocking collectors from providing information about the contents of the boxes.

The House oversight panel has repeatedly cited its authority to investigate matters involving the Presidential Records Act, which was enacted in 1978 after former President Richard Nixon destroyed documents related to the Watergate scandal.

Maloney warned in December 2020 that he had “serious concerns” that the Trump administration was not complying with the Federal Records Act, even citing concerns in a letter to the archivist that the departure The administration “may not adequately preserve the records and may dispose of them.”

While federal law prohibits the removal of classified documents in unauthorized locations, it is possible that in this case, Trump may try to argue that as president, he was the ultimate declassification authority.

The former president has denied reports of tensions with the National Archives and his lawyers have said “they are continuing to search for additional presidential records related to the National Archives.”

The attorney general has acknowledged that the department has received referrals from the archives, but it has long been Justice Department policy not to comment on the investigation.

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill may face a long wait for answers to their questions about the specific investigation.

Generally, under Justice Department guidelines, details of the investigation must remain out of public view until a charge is filed or a warrant is filed. And, if a grand jury is convened, the Justice Department is barred from discussing the specifics of a grand jury investigation before an indictment is handed down under federal law.

Garland has also made it clear to prosecutors that the Justice Department will not be affected by outside political pressure.

The oversight committee asked Garland by next week to either respond to the National Archives with a green light to cooperate with his request or provide an explanation as to why the department was imposing such limits.

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