Washington: The White House has directed staff to retain certain records to ensure a “smooth transition,” the latest sign the government is preparing for President-elect Joe Biden to take office even as President Donald Trump refuses to concede.
In a Dec. 10 memo issued by the White House counsel and chief of staff and obtained by Bloomberg News, aides are being directed to comply with the Presidential Records Act so they can be transferred to the National Archives “at the end of President Trump’s administration.”
The law, which was passed in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, designates White House records as public and mandates their preservation.
“It is imperative that all personnel comply with the PRA,” the memo says.
The directive encompasses memos, letters, notes, emails, reports, and other written communications sent to or received from others, including people outside government. They must be stored in boxes provided by the government.
The document, however, stops short of recognizing Biden’s victory. It reminds staff that Trump “has directed that we take steps to ensure we are prepared in the event there is a transition to a new administration in January.”
“Although we remain focused on executing President Trump’s agenda, we must also prioritize preparations for a smooth transition,” the memo says.
The White House sent the reminder more than two weeks after the General Services Administration ascertained Biden as the apparent winner of the Nov. 3 election, clearing the way for formal transition activities to begin. Trump, though, has refused to concede, and has continued with a pressure campaign to overturn the election result.
Staff were told in the memo that assembling briefing books on their offices’ activity is a priority “to help facilitate a potential transition to a new administration.”
The memo reminded White House employees that they can’t keep copies of White House records for personal use after leaving White House employment and have to ask permission for exceptions.
The directive also comes days after historians and watchdog groups sued the Trump administration over allegations it has not preserved White House documents in compliance with the law. They cited the use of WhatsApp and private email accounts by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to conduct official business. -Bloomberg