OTG: The White House must not purge President Trump’s conversations with foreign officials

OpenTheGovernment is concerned that the transcript of President Trump’s May 10 conversation with Russian officials is at risk, and is calling on the White House to immediately make available a copy of the full record of the meeting to the congressional Intelligence Committees. Yesterday’s Washington Post report that President Trump disclosed national security secrets to Russian officials raises concern over the handling of classified information, as well as over the possible purging of information from the presidential record.

According to the Washington Post article, a White House official – a subordinate to Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism – called for the “problematic portion of Trump’s discussion to be stricken from internal memos and for the full transcript to be limited to a small circle of recipients,” as a way to prevent sensitive details from being disseminated further or leaked.

The White House has no legal authority to indiscriminately erase information from records relating the President’s meetings with foreign officials. All records produced by the President while conducting official business must be preserved and archived in accordance with the Presidential Records Act. Any sensitive information related to foreign intelligence must be properly classified in accordance with the Executive Order on Classified National Security Information, subject to eventual declassification review.

“Purging information from the historical record is not the proper, or legal, way to prevent government leaks,” according to Lisa Rosenberg, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment. “Leaks are not the issue here; the concern is the proper handling and potential misuse of highly sensitive information. We are entering dangerous territory if the White House is given the discretion to choose what information it preserves, and what it considers fit for the memory hole.”

OpenTheGovernment is calling on the White House to respond to today’s request from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and make available a copy of the transcript, along with all records on the May 10 meeting to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and take urgent steps to ensure that the information properly handled in accordance with law.