Mon. Jan 30th, 2023

Mr. Bush, who left office in 2009, also delivered millions of documents to the archives. People familiar with the transfer of that information said it happened on a regular basis throughout the president’s two terms. One person recalled that any documents deemed protected by the Presidential Records Act would be sent every day by the president’s staff secretary to the Office of Records Management, for eventual transfer to the archives.

Even presidents who were not subject to the 1978 records act have historically treated official documents with care. Michael Beschloss, a historian and a longtime board member for the National Archives Foundation, said that Dwight D. Eisenhower kept classified documents at Fort Ritchie, a military installation in Maryland, while he was in Gettysburg, Pa., writing his memoirs. The former president and military commander would have to apply to see the documents, Mr. Beschloss said.

After the F.B.I. searched Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate this month, the former president lashed out, and at one point accused Mr. Obama of having left office with many classified documents.

“President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified,” Mr. Trump said in a statement to the press. “How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!”

That accusation prompted a quick reply from the archives, which refuted Mr. Trump’s claim.

The National Archives “assumed exclusive legal and physical custody of Obama presidential records when President Barack Obama left office in 2017, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act,” the statement said, adding that in addition to about 30 million pages of unclassified records, the agency “maintains the classified Obama presidential records in a NARA facility in the Washington, D.C., area.”

The archives’ authority over presidential records dates back to the beginning of the Reagan administration, the result of a Watergate-era backlash over attempts by former President Richard M. Nixon to maintain control over millions of pages of papers and hundreds of hours of audiotapes that helped force his resignation.

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