Fact Checking Donald Trump's Claims About the Presidential Records Act

April 12, 2023—On Tuesday, April 4, Donald Trump made incorrect claims about the Presidential Records Act. These claims are patently false and do not reflect the law or the practices of the National Archives and Records Administration. During a speech on April 4, Mr. Trump said, "Just so everyone knows, I come under what's known as the Presidential Records Act, which was designed and approved by Congress long ago just for this reason. Under the act, I'm supposed to negotiate with NARA, the National Archives and Records Administration."

As Section 2202 of the Presidential Records Act (44 U.S.C. Chapter 22) states, "The United States shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of Presidential records." And Section 2203 (g)(1) makes it clear, "Upon the conclusion of a President's term of office, or if a President serves consecutive terms upon the conclusion of the last term, the Archivist of the United States shall assume responsibility for the custody, control, and preservation of, and access to, the Presidential records of that President."

As non-partisan public servants working on behalf of the people of the United States, the Archivist of the United States and the archivists and records managers who work throughout the federal government manage the essential evidence of our democracy responsibly and transparently. Only when individuals attempt to undermine the provisions of the Presidential Records Act do we see the courts and investigators become part of the disposition of records—records that are the property of the people of the United States. Any claims from any public officials otherwise are not grounded in law or fact. They are fabrications.

Learn more about the Presidential Records Act and the history behind current events by watching a roundtable hosted by SAA and the American Historical Association held on April 4, 2023.