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Trump Administration Gets a Legal Victory in Presidential Recordkeeping Lawsuit

A federal judge on Monday rejected a lawsuit accusing the Trump administration of failing to keep proper records of his meetings with the leaders of foreign nations as prescribed by the Presidential Records Act (PRA), the Federal Records Act (FRA), and the Take Care Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In a 22-page decision, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the federal judge presiding over Roger Stone’s criminal case, reasoned that the court lacked the authority to police the executive branch regarding its recordkeeping practices and decisions.

“[T]he Court is bound by Circuit precedent to find that it lacks authority to oversee the President’s day-to-day compliance with the statutory provisions involved in this case,” Jackson wrote. “Since the ‘PRA accords the President virtually complete control over his records during his term of office,’ and it grants neither the Archivist nor Congress any authority to interfere with the executive’s recordkeeping activities, the [Armstrong v. Bush] Court found that Congress did not intend to allow courts, ‘at the behest of private citizens, to rule on the adequacy of the President’s records management practices or overrule his records creation, management, and disposal decisions.’”

The ruling comes less than a week after a federal circuit court dismissed an Emoluments lawsuit filed by more than 200 members of Congress against President Donald Trump.

Jackson pointed out that lacking the necessary jurisdiction to police the executive branch’s enforcement of recordkeeping policy should not be misinterpreted as the Court finding that the Trump administration’s actions were in compliance with the requisite statutes.

“Thus, this opinion will not address, and should not be interpreted to endorse, the challenged practices; nor does it include any finding that the Executive Office is in compliance with its obligations,” the judge continued. “The Court chose not to second-guess the judgment made by the legislature, when it ‘presumably relied on the fact that subsequent Presidents would honor their statutory obligations to keep a complete record of their administrations.’”

The lawsuit was originally filed last year by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the National Security Archive, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, following reports that State Department officials and interpreters were kept out of meetings with leaders from Russia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and other high-level diplomatic encounters.

CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz told multiple news outlets his organization is determining how to address Monday’s decision.

“We’re obviously disappointed to see today’s ruling,” Libowitz said in a statement. “Our legal team is currently reviewing it to determine any potential future action.”

See below for the full ruling:

Presidential Records Lawsuit MTD Ruling by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via Chris Kleponis / Pool via CNP/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.