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DOJ Orders White House Staff to ‘Preserve All Presidential Records’ Related to Trump’s Talks With Foreign Leaders


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White House personnel have been instructed to retain any and all documents related to President Donald Trump‘s conversations with foreign leaders–a legal maneuver likely to raise all sorts of eyebrows.

In a brief two-page court filing submitted with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday, attorneys for the Department of Justice (DOJ) said they began the process of retaining the records of Trump’s meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders.

This legal retention regime will become effective the date of filing.

The filing notes that DOJ attorneys have “voluntarily agree[d]” to “preserve the material at issue pending the Court’s resolution of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.”

Essentially, the government is agreeing to keep material intact because they claim to believe the underling lawsuit is going nowhere and “without conceding” that the “categories of information” being requested are actually relevant to the lawsuit either. Got that?

The filing lays down the parameters [emphasis in original]:

To that end, Defendants today instructed relevant personnel to preserve the information in the six categories identified in Plaintiffs’ Motion. This preservation instruction is consistent with and supplements the litigation hold already in effect in this action, which instructed relevant personnel to preserve all evidence relevant to the claims and defenses in this case. It further supplements pre-existing instructions to all White House personnel to preserve all presidential records, whether in hard-copy or electronic form.

The document preservation request is part of a lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and other governmental transparency organizations who were concerned that documents related to the White House’s dealings with foreign leaders might one day meet the shredder.

The request is immediately relevant to the ongoing impeachment scandal President Trump faces over his phone call with the president of the Ukraine wherein he attempted to have the foreign leader open an inquiry into the son of his potential Democratic rival Joe Biden.

“It is encouraging to know that those records that have been created will be preserved at least for the time being,” Noah Bookbinder, CREW’s executive director, said on Wednesday. “We look forward to arguing our case in court to ensure that they always will be.”

[image via Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images]

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