National Archives asks past presidents, VPs to look for classified items

National Archives asks past presidents, VPs to look for classified items


The National Archives sent a letter to representatives of living former presidents and vice presidents Thursday asking them to review their personal records to verify that no classified materials are outstanding, according to a person familiar with the correspondence who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations.

The list of those contacted probably includes former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and former vice presidents Dick Cheney, Al Gore and Dan Quayle.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the Archives was weighing such a request.

The request comes after a limited number of records bearing classified markings were found in recent weeks at President Biden’s home and a think tank bearing his name, as well as at the home of former vice president Mike Pence.

More than 100 classified documents also were found by the FBI last year when they searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, capping a nearly year-long quest to retrieve documents from Trump. The search came after more than 200 classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago had been turned over to the Archives and the Justice Department.

Under the Presidential Records Act, the Archives takes ownership of millions of presidential papers from the outgoing administration as soon as a new president is sworn in, while items deemed personal go home with the former president and vice president. Classified materials are considered government property, but compliance with the act can be an issue given the volume of materials it covers.

Former president Jimmy Carter is exempt from the Presidential Records Act because it covers records created or received after Jan. 20, 1981, after Carter left office.

An adviser to Obama’s office, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, told The Post on Tuesday that all classified records from Obama’s time in the White House had been submitted to the National Archives upon his leaving office and that the agency continues to assume physical and legal custody of Obama’s materials.

CNN first reported that the National Archives sent the letter.

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