Following reports that the outgoing Trump administration is destroying presidential records and ignoring the law when using non-official electronic devices to conduct official business, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Thursday introduced the Promoting Accountability and Security in Transition (PAST) Act, to clarify and enhance existing law with regards to presidential transition and presidential records. Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-05) introduced the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. NCH was consulted during the drafting of the legislation and has endorsed the bill.
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.
2. 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.
3. 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.