Behind the scenes of the White House.. This is how the records of the presidency were transferred in the last days of Trump

In early 2021, as former President Donald Trump was packing his bags to leave the White House, staff carried half-packed boxes to the new residence.

In the West Wing of the White House, some held boxes of presidential M&Ms, while staff scrambled to find giant photos of President Trump and First Lady Melania that adorned the walls, anxious to get a memento of their service at the presidential palace.

But what happened is that souvenirs were kept, and records were randomly disposed of, according to a report by the American magazine “Politico”.

The magazine notes that there are so-called “bags prepared to burn,” and it quoted two former Trump-era White House officials as saying those boxes were red-lined, indicating they contained sensitive classified material that supposed to be disposed of.

According to veteran national security attorney Mark Zedd, employees reportedly placed unclassified material in the bags, including written letters and notes to senior officials.

Zeid said it was not necessarily inappropriate to dispose of non-confidential information in this way, as long as it was within the law, but those monitoring the process later acknowledged that it was not entirely clear whether the documents to the National Archives should not be handed over. rather than destroyed by combustion. .

And in those tumultuous moments — according to investigators — the boxes were filled with classified material and sent to Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago.

Nineteen months later, Trump’s handling of presidential records and materials from the West Wing has left him at unprecedented legal risk.

Last week, the FBI used a warrant to retrieve the material, which the bureau said contained four sets of highly classified documents and seven other classified information.

A number of former White House officials and advisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told of the way they handled the past few days; Packing began in earnest when the president was busy with other things: the aftermath of the Capitol riots on January 6 and the impending impeachment.

It was all too late, including the General Services Administration’s official recognition of the transfer of power.

“We were 30 days behind what a typical administration would be,” said a former senior Trump aide.

During December and January, administration officials received guidance from the White House counsel’s office on compliance with the Presidential Records Act, the successor law to Watergate that prescribes procedures and processes for preserving government documents.

There were professional staff who helped manage the national WEAPON and IT systems, and they were called the record keeping assistants.

Employees also began to leave ever-increasing piles of work to a dwindling number of aides, some embittered and exhausted, who showed little desire or inclination to help a new administration that their boss claimed stole the election.

The weeks following the November election have been among the most chaotic for the Trump White House, with the West Wing reeling from Trump’s loss to new President Joe Biden, and his predecessor’s refusal to compromise largely scuttled the transition. frozen.

Some aides report that Staff Secretary Derek Lyons has tried to maintain a semblance of order in the West Wing despite the election uncertainty. But he left the department at the end of December, leaving the necessary record-keeping to the National Archives for others.

Aides and advisers said then-chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump didn’t care much about the matter.

Meanwhile, the responsibility of overseeing packages from the room Trump liked to work in when he wasn’t working from the Oval Office has been left to Trump’s aides Molly Michael and Nick Luna, according to several former aides.

A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the story, and a person close to Meadows insisted that “all procedures were followed as indicated.”

Several Trump White House aides argued that the process for investigating and keeping government records, returning equipment and obtaining security clearances from employees was clearly defined by the counsel’s office and carefully done.

But most aides spoke of a haphazard process as Inauguration Day approached, and lawyers sent out directions on when and how to pack the bags.

This contrasted sharply with the operation carried out by Trump’s predecessor; Former President Barack Obama’s administration learned it was going and began the transition in August 2016, according to Neil Eggleston, a former Obama White House adviser.

For outgoing administrations, there is usually a process for declassifying confidential documents, then a procedure for handing over government phones and computers. But in the Trump administration, that process came after the Capitol riots.

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