Trump’s argument in record-keeping case: ‘Courts cannot review the president’s compliance with the Presidential Records Act’

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Can a federal court decide whether the White House is breaking presidential record-keeping laws, such as by using encrypted apps that automatically erase messages once they’re read or issuing executive orders to avoid creating a paper trail accessible to the public? Government attorneys told a federal judge in Washington that the answer is a sweeping “no,” in a case that could help determine whether open-government laws are keeping pace with frontiers in communications technology. Seeking to dismiss a lawsuit from watchdog groups against the Trump administration, Justice Department attorney Steven Myers cited the Presidential Records Act of 1978. The law was passed in the wake of Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal in part to preserve vital evidence for criminal investigations. In two appeals court decisions from 1993 — the last time similar questions were tested — judges had no trouble ruling that the records law encompassed the exploding use of email. But judges found that permitting private parties to sue under the law would upset “Congress’s carefully crafted balance” that allows presidents to control the “creation, management, and disposal” of their records while in office, Myers said. “Courts cannot review the president’s compliance with the Presidential Records Act,” he said.


Trump’s argument in record-keeping case: ‘Courts cannot review the president’s compliance with the Presidential Records Act’