(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Trump unlawfully seized notes created by a State Department interpreter during a private meeting with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, and Secretary Pompeo has failed to recover and preserve these agency records. President Trump has made repeated attempts to conceal the content of his multiple meetings with President Putin. In his first meeting with the Russian government, President Trump is reported to have revealed highly classified information to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister.
Secretary Pompeo’s failure to recover these unlawfully seized State Department notes violates the Federal Records Act. This failure deprives even the American government of an official record of what happened in this meeting and guarantees that the historical record will be incomplete. Federal law requires the State Department and the Secretary of State to:
- Notify the Archivist of all instances where meeting notes were seized or destroyed;
- Recover such meeting notes;
- Refer the unlawful seizure to the Attorney General for the purpose of initiating an enforcement action to recover the records.
Ahead of the June 2019 G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, where President Trump is expected to meet with President Putin, we and American Oversight filed this lawsuit against the Department of State, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Archivist of the United States. This suit follows demand letters sent by Democracy Forward in February 2019 and American Oversight in January 2019, alerting Secretary Pompeo to the fact that he was ignoring his legal obligations by allowing the President’s seizure of meeting records to go unaddressed and by not referring the conduct to the Department of Justice.
We expect the government to respond in the coming months.