WASHINGTON — The National Archives and Records Administration issued a statement Friday in an attempt to counter misstatements about former president Barack Obama’s presidential records after several days of misinformation that had been spread by former president Donald Trump and conservative commentators.
Since the FBI search of his Florida home and club this week for classified documents, Trump has asserted in social media posts that Obama “kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified” and that they were “taken to Chicago by President Obama.”
In its statement, NARA said that it obtained “exclusive legal and physical custody” of Obama’s records when he left office in 2017. It said that about 30 million pages of unclassified records were transferred to a NARA facility in the Chicago area and that they continue to be maintained “exclusively by NARA.”
Classified records from Obama are kept in a NARA facility in Washington, D.C., the statement said.
“As required by the [Presidential Records Act], former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the Presidential records of his Administration,” the statement said.
Despite the official statement, Trump continued to peddle his false claims in light of The Washington Post report that classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of Trump’s Florida residence Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Within minutes of the statement from the Archives, Trump again pushed his evidence-free claim in response to the latest reports, saying, “What are they going to do with the 33 million pages of documents, many of which are classified, that President Obama took to Chicago?”
Judge denies Trump executive’s request to dismiss Manhattan tax case
NEW YORK — A Manhattan state court judge Friday declined to throw out the criminal case against Donald Trump’s family business and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, clearing the way for a trial in the case scheduled for the fall.
Weisselberg and the business, the Trump Organization, were charged last year by the Manhattan district attorney’s office with having engaged in a 15-year scheme in which executives were compensated with hidden benefits so that they could evade taxes. The charges stemmed from the office’s long-running investigation into the company’s business practices.
In February, Weisselberg and the company filed motions to dismiss the charges, arguing that the case was politically motivated and that the defendants were charged only because of their link with Trump, the former president.
The decision marked the latest legal blow to Trump in a week full of them.
On Monday, the FBI searched his Florida home in connection with an unrelated criminal investigation. And on Wednesday, the former president invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in an interview with the New York state attorney general, which is conducting a civil inquiry into some of the same practices that are being examined by the Manhattan district attorney.
The judge, Juan Merchan, granted a significant victory to the district attorney, Alvin Bragg. His prosecutors argued in May, in response to the motion to dismiss, that there was nothing extraordinary about the charges: Weisselberg had violated the law in failing to pay his taxes and was being prosecuted for it, they said.
“Over the course of the period charged in the indictment, Weisselberg evaded payment of taxes on a total of $1.7 million in income,” they wrote in a memo filed with the court. “Such illegal conduct is regularly prosecuted and this office would have been remiss not to have done so here.”
Merchan dismissed one count of criminal tax fraud against the Trump Organization and its affiliated payroll company, letting stand 14 of the 15 counts in the indictment against the business and all of the counts against Weisselberg. The prosecutors had conceded in May that the count should be dismissed because of issues with the statute of limitations.
Jury selection for a trial was scheduled for Oct. 24.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has been investigating Trump and his company since 2018, and Weisselberg became a focus for investigators at the district attorney’s office in the spring of 2021, just a month after the US Supreme Court rejected a final effort from Trump to block the office from obtaining his tax returns. The justices’ decision ended a lengthy legal battle that significantly delayed the investigation’s progress.
Under the supervision of then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., the prosecutors had been examining whether Trump and his company fraudulently inflated the value of his real estate to obtain loans and benefits.
But after obtaining Trump’s tax records, the prosecutors’ inquiries into Weisselberg began to focus on perks he had received from the company, including several leased Mercedes-Benzes, a rent-free apartment, and private school tuition for his grandchildren. Weisselberg, prosecutors said when they charged him in July 2021, failed to pay taxes on those perks.
Before Weisselberg was charged, prosecutors put significant pressure on him to cooperate with their investigation into Trump because of his in-depth understanding of the Trump Organization’s inner workings.
But Weisselberg did not strike a deal, leading to his indictment.
NEW YORK TIMES
Former presidential yacht to be restored at Maine shipyard
BELFAST, Maine — A private shipyard is preparing for a painstaking stem-to-stern restoration of a floating piece of presidential history.
The Sequoia is a 1925 motor yacht that served eight presidents before being sold by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.
French & Webb, a custom boat building company, was tapped for the restoration by the current owner. Strict guidelines must be followed because the vessel is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It’s slowly happening, but the needle is moving,” Todd French told the Bangor Daily News.
For now, the 104-foot vessel remains under a white tarp. Behind the scenes, workers have created a three-dimensional model because the original design plans couldn’t be found, and assembled materials including long leaf pine from the Southeast and white oak from Denmark.
Once the physical work begins, likely in the spring, the restoration of the Sequoia should be a three-year project, he said.
Over the years, several different vessels have served as a floating White House for presidents.
The Sequoia was designed by a Norwegian-born naval architect and went through a couple of owners before going up for sale following the stock market crash of 1929.
President Herbert Hoover encouraged the Navy to buy the vessel, and began using it as a presidential yacht.
This Sequoia holds plenty of presidential history: John Kennedy celebrated his last birthday aboard the vessel; Harry Truman held atomic arms talks with the leaders of Canada and Great Britain after World War II; and Richard Nixon hosted Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
The vessel, which is owned by FE Partners LLC, a private investment firm based Washington, D.C., has been in Belfast since 2019. The pandemic delayed the start of work.