WASHINGTON (CN) — President Trump and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner have failed to keep records of meetings and correspondence with world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and members of the Saudi royal court, a nonprofit watchdog claimed Tuesday in a lawsuit against the Trump administration.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington claims in a 39-page federal complaint that Trump and Kushner also failed to classify notes taken by State Department interpreters, including records protected by executive privilege and beyond the reach of Freedom of Information Act requests.
The alleged omissions are a violation of the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act, CREW says, and cause “real incalculable harm” to national security and the ability of the U.S. government to “effectively conduct foreign policy.”
Trump held at least five meetings with Putin without a note-taker, CREW says, so no official record exists.
“More recently, President Trump had a one-on-one meeting in Vietnam with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un with only two interpreters present, apparently leaving no U.S. record of this interaction,” CREW attorney Anne L. Weissman wrote.
As for Kushner, the president’s son-in-law reportedly used the encrypted messaging program WhatsApp, as well as a personal email address to conduct official business and communicate with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
“Similarly, White House advisor Ivanka Trump also reportedly conducts official White House business through a personal email account as did former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland when communicating about the transfer of ‘sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia,’” CREW says.
The complaint states that use of encrypted applications by the Trump administration and Trump’s family “stymied the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.”
“Mueller noted in his executive summary, the OSC [Office of Special Counsel] learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated — including some associated with the Trump campaign — deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communication records,” the complaint states.
Trump’s “general antipathy” toward note-taking is well documented, CREW asserts: One need only look to former White House counsel Donald McGahn’s sworn testimony with Mueller to see that.
“Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes,” Trump told McGahn, according to the Mueller report.
Trump made Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for emails a major part of his election campaign, and a basis for his “Lock her up!” chants.
CREW seeks declaratory judgment that the administration’s failure to preserve records violates the Presidential Records Act, and an order that the administration “maintain a policy and practice of creating and preserving records documenting the activities, deliberations, decisions and policies that reflect the performance of the President’s constitutional, statutory or other official or ceremonial duties.”
The White House did not reply to a request for comment Tuesday night.
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