The exclamation point was perhaps the most tantalizing part of Donald Trump’s statement after the Mar-a-Lago raid: “They even broke in Got 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 enter 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 this way. He also referred to the raid as a “raid,” implying that Mar-a-Lago was “under siege,” and asked how the chain of events differed from Watergate.
While the former president intended 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 was at Mar-a-Lago in connection with 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 law reads: “The United States shall retain and retain full ownership, possession, and control of the Presidential Records.”
The Presidential Records Act is broad in scope and thus can be applied to Mar-a-Lago Anything in the manor safe. It covers “all books, correspondence, memos, documents, papers, pamphlets, artworks, models, pictures, photographs, plans, maps, films and films, including but not limited to audio and video recordings, or other electronic or mechanical records, Whether analog, digital, or any other” created by the White House.
The public will soon see what Trump wants to keep secret. Worse news for the former president is that once a president leaves office, U.S. archivists will take responsibility for the president’s records and decide whether (and usually when) to disclose those documents.
The idea is that even though the former president may not think so, the public should know a lot about what happens in the top office of the state. “The president is not the king,” a federal judge wrote of the Presidential Records Act and its balance with privacy and presidential privilege, “and [Donald Trump] is not the president.” In the same case, the appeals court Focus on Congress visiting White House documents as part of a Jan. 6 investigation that later dismissed Trump’s “general concerns about executive branch confidentiality,” explaining that “we only have one president at a time” and The former president’s awareness of things is far less important than the current president.
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 the “diary, diary or other personal notes” of former President Trump (or any other president) or with his “private” political associations” or those involving elections “for [his] own,” whatever that means in this particular context. 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.