WASHINGTON — The National Archives notified Donald Trump’s lawyers in May 2021 that some of the presidential records it was missing included correspondence between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a letter former President Barack Obama left for Trump, according to a previously undisclosed email.
The National Archives and Record Administration made the email, dated May 6, 2021, and several other documents public Monday in response to Freedom of Information Act requests by numerous news organizations. The bulk of requested material was not released.
In his email last year to three Trump attorneys, including Patrick Philbin, archives General Counsel Gary Stern said the agency has "come upon several problems that we need your help in resolving." He said that there are "now certain paper/textual records that we cannot account for" and that officials needed their "immediate assistance to ensure that NARA receives all Presidential records as required by the Presidential Records Act."
"The original correspondence between President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un were not transferred to us; it is our understanding that in January 2021, just prior to the end of the Administration, the originals were put in a binder for the President, but were never returned to the Office of Records Management for transfer to NARA," Stern told Trump's representatives. "It is essential that these original records be transferred to NARA as soon as possible."
Stern also said, "The letter that President Obama left for President Trump on his first day in office has not been transferred; since that letter was received by President Trump after his term commenced, it is a Presidential record."
Other outlets, citing unnamed sources, reported those specific records when the National Archives said in a statement in February that just weeks earlier it had “arranged for the transport from the Trump Mar-a-Lago property in Florida to the National Archives of 15 boxes that contained Presidential records, following discussions with President Trump’s representatives in 2021.”
The email from Stern was among nearly a dozen pages of other communications between archives officials and representatives of Trump who handled the Presidential Records Act that were released. The archives said Monday it was withholding nearly 300 other pages it possesses related to those communications.
The National Archives also released 54 pages of communications between agency officials and outside entities, such as Congress, the White House and the Justice Department. The archives said it was withholding about 1,250 pages of those communications.
Most of the pages that were disclosed have previously been made public, such as letters House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., sent to the archives as part of her panel's investigation into the classified documents and other presidential records Trump failed to transfer to the archives and took to his Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, instead.
Within the 54 pages was a letter Stern sent in June 2018 to Stefan Passantino, then the deputy counsel to Trump, about a story Politico published about how White House employees were responsible for taping together documents torn up by the president.
Stern asked the White House to explain "the extent of the problem and how it is being addressed."
"For example: How many records have been torn up? Have any records been destroyed or were in a state that they cannot be recovered? What steps are taken to recover any records that have been torn up?" he asked, adding that the archives would be "happy to provide guidance on best practices for restoring damaged records."
The documents were released just days after the archives informed the House Oversight Committee that some records from the Trump White House have still not been turned over in compliance with the Presidential Records Act.