Quigley and Connecticut Senator introduce bill to protect presidential records

Date: 
12/18/2020
MikeQuigley

U.S. Representative Mike Quigley

In response to reports that the outgoing Trump administration is destroying presidential records and ignoring the law when using non-official electronic devices to conduct official business, Mike Quigley, U.S. Representative, IL 5th District and Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut introduced the Promoting Accountability and Security in Transition (PAST) Act

“This bill ensures that all presidential records are documented, archived, and preserved for the historical record,” said Quigley, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Transparency Caucus. “It is imperative that we push for commonsense legislation like this to hold elected officials accountable for what they do and say, including on social media platforms. This is about building more government accountability and transparency not only for the outgoing administration but for every administration.” 

“It’s been over a month since Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election, and President Trump still has yet to concede. Even more troubling are reports that his administration is destroying presidential records and refusing to share national security information with the transition,” said Murphy. 

 “The American people see that the process is broken and that it is time for reform. Our legislation clarifies and enhances existing laws related to presidential transitions and presidential records by putting in safeguards and transparency to ensure the paper trail that documents the actions taken by this and future administrations cannot be swept under the rug with impunity. It also establishes real consequences for the destruction of Presidential Records for the first time. This should be a no-brainer for Republicans and Democrats who care about our country’s national security and the peaceful transfer of power to support.” 

Supported by numerous groups, the proposed act covers three types of materials: 

  1. Presidential Records Act, which:
    • Requires the President to receive written guidance from the Archivist before destroying any records and make this guidance publicly available;
    • Requires the Archivist to inspect White House records management, training, and standard operating procedures on a biannual basis;
    • Allows judicial review of access restrictions to Presidential Records and allows a Congressional Committee Ranking Members to request exemptions to access restrictions after a President’s term in office;
    • Requires the Archivist to provide regulations for documenting records created on non-official electronic messaging accounts (e.g. WhatsApp), preserving social media messaging (e.g. Twitter), and narrow exemptions for using applications with automatic deleting functionalities (e.g. Signal, Confide); and
    • Requires the President to prohibit White House staff from using non-official electronic messaging accounts that cannot be easily copied or forwarded to official accounts and all messaging accounts with automatic deleting functionalities. 
  1. Presidential Compensation and Libraries, which:
    • Establishes consequences for former Presidents that destroy Presidential records, including restricting post-presidency salary and staff, prohibiting public funding for Presidential Library construction, and preventing presidential records from being entrusted to a Presidential Library or Museum regardless of whether public funds were used for construction; and
    • Requires former Presidents to cover the entire cost of digitizing records for display in a Presidential Library. 

  2. Presidential Transitions Act, which:
    • Ensures president-elects receive comprehensive and timely briefings on vital national security information during a transition;
    • Requires the General Services Administrator to independently ascertain the President-elect within six calendar days of an election and provide sources to any plausible winning candidates to support continuity of government; and
    • During a transition, requires the Archivist to work with the Federal Transition Coordination to monitor records preservation compliance and report any compliance issues to Congress. 

A champion for transparency and oversight, Quigley introduced two other acts in 2017. The COVFEFE Act included social media material in the Presidential Records Act, and the MAR-A-LAGO Act required White House and Trump property visitor logs be made public.

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