There is a reason why the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago last week.
Here is a nice explainer from National Public Radio:
For the first two centuries of U.S. history, outgoing presidents simply took their documents with them when they left the White House. The materials were considered their personal property.
But for the past four decades, every presidential document — from notebook doodles to top-secret security plans — is supposed to go directly to the National Archives as the material is considered the property of the American people...
The rules changed for one reason: Watergate.
When President Nixon resigned amid the 1974 scandal, he wanted to take his documents to his home in California — including his infamous tape recordings.
Congress realized it would not have access to that material, and they also feared it could be destroyed. So legislators passed the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, which made all of Nixon’s material public property.
However, that measure applied to Nixon only. In 1978, Congress passed the more sweeping Presidential Records Act that has been the standard ever since.
“Every president, when they leave office, those records that have been created by the president and his staff are presidential records that go to the National Archives,” Baron said. “The owner is the American people.”
This includes all presidential material, whether it’s routine, unclassified notes or top-secret national security documents.
Read the entire piece here.
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