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Trump administration, preserve the evidence of what you did (opinion)

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It is an expression of our most deeply rooted American patriotic values ​​allegiance to the republic and to the system of self-governance that has guided us for 244 years.

With election day behind us, our country is entering an uncertain time. Since 2016, President Donald Trump, members of his campaign and his administration have flouted both the letter and the spirit of our laws. His associates have racked up an unprecedented number of indictments and convictions. Some of them, along with a series of former cabinet members and White House officials, have normalized brazen financial and ethical conflicts of interest.

With the protections offered by presidential immunity ending in a few weeks, some officials may be tempted to cover up the traces of this administration and destroy evidence of wrongdoing.

We cannot allow that to happen.

All new administrations inherit political differences and diplomatic and military challenges from their predecessors. They inherit a job that existed before they arrived and will exist long after they leave. Maintaining the strength and resilience of the United States requires that the incoming team have access to the full account of events and internal deliberations regarding existing political challenges. Nothing good for the United States if, say, Russian President Vladimir Putin has a more complete view of US-Russian communications over the past four years than President Biden. It is precisely for this reason that Congress has adopted the Federal Records Act of 1950. and the Presidential Records Act of 1978. These laws ensure that documents, including digital and electronic records, relating to the official functions of the president, vice-president and federal agencies are preserved and preserved.

This is essential for our democracy and for a peaceful transition of power. Both laws serve and protect the American people to whom these documents belong. Anyone who breaks these laws can face criminal penalties or prosecution from the next U.S. Attorney General.

Our challenge right now is that the culture of the Trump administration has led some of its officials to treat our laws and democratic standards as obstacles rather than sacred obligations. In the past four years we have already seen violations of the PRA and the FRA: for example, Trump seized and refused to release an interpreter’s notes after a meeting with Putin. White House staff, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, have reportedly relied on personal emails and encrypted messaging apps to conduct their official business.

But these only represent the “known unknowns”. The PRA and FRA require the retention of all documents, not just those of which Congress is aware. Given the pattern of behavior of Trump and his senior officials, we must remain vigilant to ensure that all laws are obeyed and all documents are preserved during this transition.

And here we would like to address the employees of federal agencies who have been forced to silently testify of wrongdoing over the past four years: We thank you for your service. We support you.

It is not lost on us that for every Alexander Vindman put in the public spotlight, there are countless other quiet officials who have refused illegal orders and strived to uphold public integrity. We thank you for your dignity and patriotism, and we will work so that our country never puts you back in this situation again. We know that we can count on you to prioritize the United States of America as part of the transition process over the next 60 days.

Trump will be President until January 20, and until then he has the right to exercise all the legitimate powers of his office to faithfully execute our laws and “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” for the good. common. But if you are asked to do something that you believe may break the law, please consult a lawyer before complying and notify your agency’s Inspector General.

As members of Congress, we will be proactive during this transition, keeping in regular contact with Inspectors General and those responsible for record keeping.

In the winter of 1776, Thomas Paine wrote of those who defended our country that they “deserve the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. “

To the American people who did not support Donald Trump and who did not give up, who walked, who organized themselves, who voted: Our republic still stands because of you. You have won our “love and thank you” many times. We cannot always count on elected officials to honor their oath to protect our Constitution. But we take comfort in the fact that we can always count on you. Stay alert. We know you will.

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