Trump Campaign Likely Didn’t Save Key Documents Related to Russia
The Trump campaign likely did not preserve documents and communications key to the law enforcement investigation into possible collusion between President Trump’s associates and the Kremlin, Politico reported Saturday.
Political campaigns, Politico noted, are typically not required to preserve emails on their private server for long windows of time, and most messages are deleted within 30 to 90 days, unless steps are taken to preserve them.
What’s more, the Trump campaign did not do much to establish a plan to maintain those communications, according to a former campaign aide.
“You’d be giving us too much credit,” the former aide told Politico. “The idea of document retention did not come up. The idea of some formal structure did not come up.”
The White House itself is subject to more rigorous recordkeeping rules, and White House counsel Don McGahn directed staffers in February to preserve documents and other records that could be requested or used in ongoing federal investigations into Russian election meddling.
But at issue for some White House staffers is the existence of encrypted apps, such as Signal and Confide, that automatically delete messages. Failure to maintain certain records, according to Politico, could potentially lead to legal trouble.
U.S. law requires individuals to preserve documents, emails and other records once they become aware that such material could be pertinent to an investigation, regardless of whether they are formally notified by investigators.
The Justice Department earlier this month appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. At least four congressional committees are also probing the matter.
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow, and has called the allegations a “witch hunt.” Still, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a report made public in January that the Kremlin had sought to influence the 2016 presidential election in favor of Trump, and the FBI has been probing the matter quietly since last summer.