Justice Dept. tells White House to preserve records of communications with foreign leaders

The day after the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the National Security Archive and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations asked a federal judge in Washington to issue a restraining order compelling the White House to preserve records of communications with foreign leaders, including the call between President Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky that sparked the House to begin impeachment proceedings, the Justice Department said it had instructed the White House to do just that.

The Justice Department “instructed relevant personnel to preserve the information in the six categories identified in Plaintiffs’ Motion,” according to court documents.

“This preservation instruction is consistent with and supplements the litigation hold already in effect in this action, which instructed relevant personnel to preserve all evidence relevant to the claims and defenses in this case,” the filing to Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s court said. “It further supplements pre-existing instructions to all White House personnel to preserve all presidential records, whether in hard-copy or electronic form.”

Attorneys for the groups had pointed to the more than 40-year-old Presidential Records Act that mandates the preservation of presidential records and expressed concern “of the palpable risk that presidential records will be irreparably lost,” pressing Judge Jackson to act.

"To hold the President immune from any lawsuit seeking to make him accountable for his recordkeeping violations would, however, fly in the face of the” act’s text and purpose as well as “its historical context, and the congressional record," the attorneys wrote.

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