Ethics watchdog suing National Archives for WH communications about classified docs

An ethics group comprised of “retired and former public servants with decades of experience in government” has sued the National Archives and Records Administration for access to its White House communications.

The group, Protect the Public’s Trust, is specifically looking to see what was written between NARA acting archivist Debra Steidel Wall and the White House in the days preceding and during the Biden administration’s raid of Mar-a-Lago and the discovery of classified documents at President Joe Biden’s various properties.

“These documents could shed light on conversations between NARA and the White House during a highly politically fraught period leading up to the unprecedented raid of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence to obtain presidential records and the discovery of classified material at several locations associated with President Joe Biden,” the group said in a statement.

Yet thus far, NARA has completely ignored the group’s requests for the relevant records, ergo why the group has since filed suit.

In remarks made to the Daily Mail, Protect the Public’s Trust director Michael Chamberlain called out the hypocrisy and double standards.

“Apparently it’s too much to ask that the agency requesting everyone else turn over their records live by its own rules when its documents are sought,” he said.

“At a time when the public could use some clarity and transparency on highly charged episodes, this appears to be par for the course for an administration proclaiming itself the most transparent in history. Yet one more reason why the American public’s trust in its government continues to plummet,” he added.

His point was that NARA has spent years demanding everybody else turn over documents. But God forbid it itself ever turn over any. Indeed, this isn’t the first suit that’s been directed at NARA over its lack of transparency.

Last September, just around the time that Mar-a-Lago was raided, the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project sued both NARA and the Department of Justice, accusing them of refusing to comply with its Freedom of Information Act requests.

“Biden’s DOJ and FBI raided Mar-a-Lago over a document dispute. Now, they have a document dispute with us. Let’s see if the law is truly applied evenly, or if these agencies continue to stonewall our efforts while selectively leaking information to liberal media outlets to advance the narrative Merrick Garland and Joe Biden want,” Oversight Project director Mike Lowell said at the time.

“The DOJ is conducting this investigation in an overtly partisan and corrupt manner. The authorized leaks and selective disclosures discredit their entire basis for withholding other information from valid requests such as ours. There is simply no valid ongoing investigation exemption for the communications we are seeking,” he added.

Previously, American Oversight, an ostensible non-partisan nonprofit that seems to lean to the left, sued NARA for access to the records related to the agency’s repossession in January of 2022 of 15 boxes of items from Mar-a-Lago.

“American Oversight filed three Freedom of Information Act requests to NARA in February seeking communications from agency officials about the Mar-a-Lago records and with members of the Trump campaign and organization, as well as inventories or lists of items that were retrieved from the residence,” the nonprofit reported in May.

“These records have the potential to reveal exactly why Trump held on to these materials for a year. NARA did not respond to these requests as required by law, leading American Oversight to file suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia,” it continued.

Evidently, NARA likes to say “no” to everybody.

That said, some of the lack of transparency may be the fault of the Biden administration.

Last week, House Oversight and Reform Committee chair James Comer claimed that NARA was blocked from speaking out publicly when classified documents were first discovered at the president’s various properties.

He added that only two entities — the White House and the Department of Justice — possess the clout needed to force NARA to remain quiet.

“So, it shows right there that this Department of Justice and this White House is interfering with this,” he told Fox News host Sean Hannity.


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