Trump replaces the gatekeepers of his presidential records

All former presidents designate representatives to work with the Archives on how their presidential papers are handled — a process that typically includes setting up a presidential library or facilitating access for researchers. In Trump’s case, that relationship extends to the management of records that are now at the heart of the criminal charges related to his handling of classified information in the months after he left office.

The shift in Trump’s designees to the Archives comes as Trump is expected to face a federal jury next year in South Florida on those charges. Prosecutors have accused him of hoarding classified information at his Mar-a-Lago estate after leaving office. Trump has signaled he plans to assert that the documents were official “presidential records” that he was allowed to possess, and Blanche is helming his defense in the matter.

Corcoran may ultimately wind up a key witness against his client. Prosecutors obtained notes and recordings he kept memorializing his conversations with Trump that featured prominently in the indictment brought against him in June by special counsel Jack Smith. Corcoran lost a court fight in Washington, D.C. to protect the notes and recordings as attorney-client privileged. Trump may renew that argument in Florida, where he’s currently trying to delay the May 20, 2024 trial to the end of next year.

Prior to Trump’s Sept. 19 letter, he had authorized nine people to serve as his official representatives to the National Archives, which houses the records of former presidential administrations. They included seven aides who were with Trump in the closing days of his administration: Meadows, White House lawyers Pat Cipollone, Pat Philbin, Michael Purpura, John Eisenberg and Scott Gast, as well as Justice Department official Steven Engel.

In June 2022, Trump expanded the list to include journalist John Solomon and former Pentagon aide Kash Patel. But with his new letter, he has revoked those designations.

The question of Trump’s representatives to the National Archives became a central issue in a newly revealed court battle between the special counsel and X, formerly known as Twitter. Smith’s team obtained a search warrant for Trump’s long-dormant X account to learn about his movements and contacts in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The prosecutors also obtained a court order prohibiting X from informing Trump about the existence of the warrant.

X initially insisted that it should be permitted to inform Trump about the warrant and see if he wanted to assert executive privilege. But a federal judge sharply rejected the company’s position and ordered it to comply with the warrant, which X eventually did without informing Trump.

In its legal filings, X contended that as a compromise, one of Trump’s designated National Archives representatives should be informed of the warrant to determine whether Trump might want to assert privilege. But the court and prosecutors agreed the company’s proposal was unworkable and would likely result in disclosure of the warrant to Trump.

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