The National Archives wrote to lawyers representing former President Donald Trump four months after he left office requesting missing records from his administration, including correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The email was made public on Monday in response to 50 Freedom of Information Act requests about the 15 boxes of material the agency recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate earlier this year.
In the email, Gary M. Stern, general counsel of the National Archives and Records Administration, wrote the agency had yet to receive “certain paper/textual records” it was required to keep under the Presidential Records Act. Among the missing records were Trump’s original communications with the North Korean leader.
“It is our understanding that in January 2021, just prior to the end of the Administration, the originals were put in a binder for the President, but were never returned to the Office of Records Management for transfer to NARA,” Stern wrote in an email dated May 6, 2021.
The archives also was missing a letter that former President Barack Obama left for Trump on his first day in office, Stern wrote. He added that about 12 boxes of presidential records stored in the White House residence during Trump’s term had not been turned over to the archives, even though White House legal counsel Pat Cipollone said they should be.
“We know things were very chaotic, as they always are in the course of a one-term transition,” Stern wrote. “But it is absolutely necessary that we obtain and account for all original Presidential records.”
Stern’s letter was addressed to Trump lawyers Patrick Philbin, Mike Purpura and Scott Gas.
The National Archives on Friday informed the House Committee on Oversight and Reform it was still missing certain Trump administration records, noting that many Trump underlings used private email accounts for government business.
“While there is no easy way to establish absolute accountability, we do know that we do not have custody of everything we should,” Debra Steidel Wall, the acting U.S. archivist, wrote to the committee, according to The Associated Press.
Steidel Wall said the agency would contact the Department of Justice to recover the “records unlawfully removed,” AP reported. The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into Trump’s removal of records, including those classified with the highest security designations, and his failure to return them.
Earlier this year, the National Archives recovered 15 boxes of records taken to Trump’s Florida estate, including “items marked as classified national security information.” Those boxes reportedly contained the Kim and Obama letters the agency sought in May 2021.
The Washington Post on Monday reported Trump directed one of his lawyers, Alex Cannon, to tell the National Archives these boxes contained all the government records that had been taken from his time in office, but Cannon refused because he wasn’t sure the statement was true.