Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton are sidestepping the classified documents controversies embroiling their successors, with staffers saying the former presidents all turned over their materials to the National Archives and Records Administration years ago when they left office.
“That process was conducted in 2008 and 2009, and all Presidential records – classified and unclassified – were turned over to the National Archives upon leaving the White House,” said Freddy Ford, Bush’s spokesperson, when asked what Bush is doing to assess whether he has any classified documents in his possession, in light of recent discoveries that President Joe Biden as well as former President Donald Trump had kept classified records.
Clinton’s office similarly says, “All of President Clinton’s classified materials were properly turned over to NARA in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.”
Obama’s office also says his classified documents are with NARA and pointed to a September statement from NARA, refuting news outlets and individuals on social media who were “mistakenly reporting” that NARA confirmed a large number of Obama’s presidential records were missing. “This is false,” the statement said. “NARA has never issued any such statement and is not aware of any missing boxes of Presidential records from the Obama administration.”
Biden, Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence are each facing controversies over the improper storage of classified documents.
The Presidential Records Act of 1978 governs the official records of presidents and vice presidents created or received after 1981, establishing a structure under which presidents and NARA must manage the records.
President Jimmy Carter served before the law took effect, with the beginning of the Reagan administration. He donated “significant portions” of his documents to the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, but he was not legally required to do so, as his successors were, The Carter Center says.
The Associated Press, citing an anonymous source, reported that Carter found classified materials at his home in Plains, Georgia, on at least one occasion and returned them to the National Archives, which manages the Carter library. “The Carter Center cannot confirm that,” a spokesperson said. A spokesperson for the library did not respond.