exclamation mark This was perhaps the most tantalizing part of Donald Trump’s post-Mar-a-Lago raid statement: “They even broke into my safe!”
It’s been a bad week for someone who believes the safe – an obvious target of the investigation – has exceeded expectations. Not only did FBI agents gain access to Trump’s Palm Beach home on Monday as part of a criminal investigation, but a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the House of Representatives has access to Trump’s tax returns.
Trump didn’t use the word “privacy” in the complaint he released about Monday’s FBI raid, but he used the punctuation to show he believed he had the right to do so. He also called the raid an “assault,” implied that Mar-a-Lago was “under siege,” and asked how the chain of events differed from Watergate.
While the former president intends to link the FBI’s actions to those of the Watergate thieves, the issue could easily have arisen for other reasons. In short, both of Trump’s most recent privacy woes are related in some way to Watergate and President Nixon. With this specter, it’s no wonder the former president didn’t win when it comes to privacy.
First, Trump’s lawyers said the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search was related to the Presidential Records Act. The Watergate-inspired law turned what many presidents might consider private White House documents — including President Richard Nixon’s infamous tapes — into more public documents. “The United States shall retain and retain full ownership, possession and control of the President’s records,” the law reads.
The Presidential Records Act is so broad that it can apply to anything in a Mar-a-Lago safe. It covers “all books, letters, memos, documents, papers, pamphlets, artworks, models, pictures, photographs, plans, maps, films and films, including but not limited to audio and video records, or other electronic or mechanical records, whether be it analog, digital, or any other” created by the White House.
This means that no matter how criminally the FBI search ends, the public will soon see whatever Trump wants to keep secret. Worse news for the former president is that once the president leaves office, U.S. archivists will take responsibility for the president’s records and decide whether (and usually when) to disclose them.
The idea is that, even though the former president may not think so, the public should know much about what goes on in the nation’s top office. “The president is not the king,” a federal judge wrote of the Presidential Records Act and its balance with privacy and presidential prerogative, “and [Donald Trump] Not the president. In the same case, an appeals court focused on congressional access to White House documents in the Jan. 6 investigation later dismissed Trump’s “general concerns about executive branch secrecy,” explaining that “we only have one president at a time” and that a Previous The president’s perception of things is far less important than the incumbent.
That’s not to say the former president doesn’t have privacy rights over material created while in office; Donald Trump’s exclamation points and concerns about his safe may be valid.Even the Presidential Records Act recommends that the “personal records” of former presidents—those “presidents” that are “purely private or non-public in nature and not related to or influenced by the performance of constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties”—may not be For the public to see. This means that, as part of the release of the National Archives, we will never see former President Trump’s (or any other president’s) “diary, diary, or other personal notes” or with his “private” political associations” or those involving “specially [his] own election,” whatever that means in this particular case. But again, the person who evaluates the evidence to determine which category any particular record falls into is at least initially an archivist, not a former president.