May 8 (UPI) — President Donald Trump and his son-in-law, White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, allegedly broke the law by “intentionally” failing to keep records of meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other foreign government officials, according to court documents.
Filed with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the suit claims Trump and the Executive Office of the President violated the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act by not keeping records of meetings with foreign officials.
“Creating records of U.S. foreign policy is critical to ensure that private researchers and historians have access to the documentary history of this presidency and to ensure that the critical checks and balances built into our system function as the founders intended,” court documents state, adding that the creation of records is also critical for future governments to carry out effective foreign policy as “the next individual who becomes president should not be left to guess what promises or deals President Trump made on behalf of the American people.”
The suit, citing news reports, states numerous instances where Trump allegedly held meetings with no note taker present or where no official U.S. record of the meetings exists, while highlighting five meetings held between the president and Putin.
The suit also states that following one meeting between the pair in Germany, Trump allegedly confiscated the notes created by a State Department interpreter and ordered him to not disclose what he had heard.
“More recently, President Trump had a one-on-one meeting in Vietnam with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un with only two interpreters present, apparently leaving no U.S. record of this interaction,” the court document states, referencing the recent second summit between the two leaders in Hanoi.
The suit, also filed by National Security Archive and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, states that “these record-keeping failures” extend to Kushner who allegedly excluded State Department personnel from a recent meeting with top Saudi officials, preventing the creation of official records.
“It is clear that President Trump and White House officials have gone to great lengths to hold high-level meetings with foreign governments and carry out foreign policy objectives while blatantly ignoring record-keeping laws and preventing national security officials and the American people from understanding what they are doing,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “The absence of records in these circumstances causes real, incalculable harm to our national security and poses a direct threat to transparency for the American public.”
Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations President Barbara Keys said her organization has sued every president, Democratic and Republican, since President Ronald Reagan to ensure the White House obeys record-keeping laws, but that this presidency “goes beyond improperly shredding records to the deliberate failure to create records in the first place.”
The organizations are suing Trump and the Executive Office of the President for the court to declare that they have violated the law and order the plaintiffs to create a policy to preserve and create records.
CREW has repeatedly called out the Trump presidency for allegedly destroying records, having sued Trump and the Executive Office of the President in June of 2017 for having violated the Presidential Records Act for using confidential messaging applications such as WhatsApp for official government business.