The federal agency responsible for making government records available to the public has gone dark with both Congress and the media when it comes to the classified documents stored at the Penn Biden Center, and at the homes of President Joe Biden.
The National Archives and Records Administration declined to answer whether anyone told the agency not to notify the public or Congress about the classified documents that were found to have been stored at the Penn Biden Center before the 2022 midterm elections in November.
“Thank you for reaching out, the National Archives has no comment,” the National Archives public and media communications staff said late Wednesday in an email to The Daily Signal in response to four questions.
In 2022, the National Archives issued 10 separate statements from January to December regarding documents it has not received from former President Donald Trump.
The National Archives’ “no comment” came in response to a Daily Signal inquiry Tuesday, which asked:
1) Did NARA retrieve the classified records from the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C.?
2) Why didn’t NARA notify the public or Congress that they took possession of classified records tied to Joe Biden prior to the 2022 midterms?
3) Did anyone tell NARA not to notify the public or Congress?
4) Will NARA comply with all lawful FOIA requests pertaining to this matter? Will responsiveness to FOIA requests be hampered by the fact that this matter is under investigation by a special counsel?
The National Archives says its mission is to “drive openness, cultivate public participation, and strengthen our nation’s democracy through equitable public access to high-value government records.”
“Our mission is to provide equitable public access to federal government records in our custody and control,” the agency’s website says. “Equitable access to government records strengthens democracy by allowing all Americans of all backgrounds to claim their rights of citizenship, hold their government accountable, and understand their history so they can participate more effectively in their government.”
On Tuesday, acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall sent a letter to House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., stating that the agency would need Justice Department approval before providing information to Congress.
“DOJ has advised it will need to consult with the newly appointed Office of Special Counsel (SCO) in DOJ to assess whether information can be released without interfering with the SCO’s investigation,” the letter says. It later adds, “NARA receives only the Presidential and Vice Presidential records that the departing administration provides us; we are never able to know whether we have ‘all’ such records.”
An oversight committee spokesperson told The Daily Signal that the chairman’s deadline of Jan. 24 for documents stands and “we anticipate moving forward with interviews with NARA officials.”
Earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed former Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert Hur as special counsel to investigate the storage of classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president under President Barack Obama.
After the raid on Trump’s home in Florida, the National Archives issued a statement in September asserting that it was not aware of missing documents from the Obama administration.
“This is false,” the agency said of charges Obama had missing documents. “NARA has never issued any such statement and is not aware of any missing boxes of Presidential records from the Obama administration.”
Going back to January 2022 when the dispute over the Presidential Records Act occurred, the National Archives issued a statement that said, “Some of the Trump presidential records received by the National Archives and Records Administration included paper records that had been torn up by former President Trump.”
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