WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Archives and Records Administration requested on Thursday that former presidents and vice presidents “conduct an assessment” to determine whether they possess any classified materials.
The National Archives referred to “several instances reported in the media where records containing classified information and subject to the Presidential Records Act (PRA) have been identified outside of the physical custody of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)” in a letter to designated records representatives.
“The responsibility to comply with the PRA does not diminish after the end of an administration,” according to the letter, which CNN first reported and NBC News later obtained.
All presidential and vice presidential records, including classified documents, must be turned over to archives by the end of their terms, according to the Presidential Records Act.
“As a result, we request that you conduct an assessment of any materials held outside of NARA that relate to the Administration for which you serve as a designated representative under the PRA, to determine whether bodies of materials previously assumed to be personal in nature may inadvertently contain Presidential or Vice Presidential records subject to the PRA, whether classified or unclassified,” according to the letter.
The archives’ spokesperson declined to comment on the letter, which was sent after classified documents were discovered at the homes of former Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Mike Pence, as well as an office Biden previously used.
Biden and Pence claimed they were unaware they had the documents until attorneys discovered them after former President Donald Trump was discovered to have left the White House with over 300 classified documents. More than 100 of those documents were discovered during an FBI search of Trump’s Florida estate in August, after Trump’s lawyers stated that all such documents had been handed over to the Justice Department after being subpoenaed by federal authorities.
Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama’s offices confirmed to NBC News this week that they were in compliance with the records law.
“Thank you for your note,” Bush’s office said in response to the archives letter on Thursday. We comprehend its intent and are confident that no such materials are in our possession.”
Jimmy Carter, the other living former president, signed the PRA into law in 1978, but it did not apply to records from his administration.
“We have not received an inquiry from the National Archives,” said former Vice President Dan Quayle’s office on Thursday. If that happens, we will fully cooperate.”