Presidents would have to certify annually that they are complying with federal records laws and risk a $50,000 fine if they mishandle executive branch documents under a new bill spurred by former President Trump’s storage of documents at Mar-a-Lago.
The legislation from House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) would add teeth to the Presidential Records Act, which dictates how records from a presidency must be stored and maintained by the National Archives.
It follows Maloney earlier this year asking the National Archives to seek a certification from Trump that he had returned all records stored at his Florida Mar-a-Lago residence after the FBI in August retrieved more than 10,000 government documents from the property, including numerous records bearing classification markings.
“Former President Trump threatened our national security through his flagrant violations of the Presidential Records Act. Even as we continue to investigate the full extent of this troubling conduct and the damage it has caused, it is clear that our law needs reform to prevent future abuses,” Maloney wrote in a statement accompanying the bill.
“The Presidential Records Certification Act is a commonsense step towards increasing accountability. Presidential records belong to the people, and those entrusted with serving at the highest levels of government owe it to the American people to preserve, and not conceal, the record of our shared history,” she continued.
The legislation would require the president and vice president to certify each year that they have complied with the law and allows the attorney general to seek civil penalties of up to $50,000 for failing to follow the Presidential Records Act or failing to file the certification.
Trump is now in numerous legal battles seeking to block the Department of Justice from accessing the records seized from his home. A federal district court judge in Florida awarded him a special master to review the evidence collected from his home after Trump claimed that some of the documents were protected by executive privilege and that some are his personal property.
The Justice Department contends that presidential records are not Trump’s personal property and that any document covered by executive privilege would therefore need to be maintained by the National Archives.
The Justice Department is now appealing the appointment of a special master, with Trump due to respond to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in a Thursday brief.