55

A public statement from former U.S. president Donald Trump claims that former president Barack Obama kept 33 million documents from his presidency, most of them classified and many of which contained details of nuclear weapons.

Statement by Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America

08/12/22

President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified. How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!

Source (archived)

33 million pages seems an extremely large amount to keep. Furthermore, a former politician retaining classified documents pertaining to nuclear weapons seems to be extraordinarily dangerous.

Did Barack Obama keep 33 million pages of documents from his presidency?

Were most of them classified?

Did many of them pertain to nuclear weapons?

0

2 Answers 2

106

No that is not accurate according to politifact and it is the national archives that have control

Trump’s suggestion that Obama had personally kept millions of documents including classified materials is wrong. The National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA, said in response to Trump’s statement that "former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the presidential records of his administration."

The National Archives said it "assumed exclusive legal and physical custody of Obama presidential records when President Barack Obama left office in 2017."

The agency said about 30 million pages of unclassified records went to a National Archives facility in the Chicago area. Classified Obama presidential records are in a facility in the Washington, D.C., area.

The Obama administration turned over the documents to the national archive which was in charge of determining what to do with them.

The Obama Presidential Center in Chicago won’t be in the library network operated by the National Archives, unlike other presidential libraries. The center will be privately operated and built by the Obama Foundation, which will raise money for the center. It remains under construction with an expected opening date of 2025.

But the National Archives continue to own and control the documents. During the digitization project, a memorandum of understanding between the National Archives and the foundation said, "NARA will not be transferring control, custody, or ownership over any of the Records to the Foundation, the Vendor, or any other third party."

The ruling they give is that the statement is "pants on fire":

Trump said, "President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified. How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!"

Trump is wrong. News reports starting in 2016 showed that the National Archives and Records Administration would oversee transfer of Obama’s presidential records. The agency announced it would digitize the records and that classified records were sent to a facility in College Park, Maryland.

Obama does not have them. We rate this statement Pants on Fire!

NARA Press Release August 12th 2022

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) assumed exclusive legal and physical custody of Obama Presidential records when President Barack Obama left office in 2017, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act (PRA). NARA moved approximately 30 million pages of unclassified records to a NARA facility in the Chicago area where they are maintained exclusively by NARA. Additionally, NARA maintains the classified Obama Presidential records in a NARA facility in the Washington, DC, area. As required by the PRA, former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the Presidential records of his Administration.

5
  • 33
    It's worth adding perhaps that the fuller quote from NARA was “As required by the PRA [Presidential Records Act], former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the Presidential records of his Administration”. In other words, NARA says it's not optional to hand them over. Aug 13, 2022 at 15:32
  • 11
    Commenters, please remember, we don't care about your political opinions
    – Oddthinking
    Aug 13, 2022 at 18:25
  • @Fizz Where are you seeing this quote?
    – Joe W
    Aug 13, 2022 at 18:52
  • @JoeW obamalibrary.gov/news/… Aug 15, 2022 at 11:29
  • 5
    Could be improved by explicitly stating that "pants on fire" refers to "liar, liar, pants on fire" for those that didn't grow up in an English speaking country.
    – Sumurai8
    Aug 15, 2022 at 16:36
63

No.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) states they have about 30 million paged of unclassified records from the Obama administration in a NARA facility near Chicago in accordance with the Presidential Records Act. Classified records are in a NARA facility near Washington, DC. Former President Obama has no control over where and how the records are stored.

Who knows "how many of them pertained to nuclear"? NARA does.

In response to Trump's claims, NARA gave a short press release on Aug 12, 2022.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) assumed exclusive legal and physical custody of Obama Presidential records when President Barack Obama left office in 2017, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act (PRA). NARA moved approximately 30 million pages of unclassified records to a NARA facility in the Chicago area where they are maintained exclusively by NARA. Additionally, NARA maintains the classified Obama Presidential records in a NARA facility in the Washington, DC, area. As required by the PRA, former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the Presidential records of his Administration.

They're in a facility to house unclassified material outside Chicago to be closer to the Barack Obama Presidential Library which is administered by NARA. The Library has this to say:

The Barack Obama Presidential Library is the 14th Presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), a federal agency...

Following digitization, NARA will store and preserve the original records and the Obama administration artifacts in an existing NARA facility that meets NARA’s standards for archival storage. The dedicated staff at that location will be responsible for caring for the records and artifacts. Currently, the Obama administration materials are housed in a temporary facility in Hoffman Estates, IL, which is not open to the public.

Obama Presidential records are administered in accordance with the requirements of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and became subject to public Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on January 20, 2022. NARA is committed to meeting all our obligations under the PRA and FOIA. The digitization and Presidential records review processes are separate and distinct.

To sum up: in contrast to Trump's apparent situation, the "33 million pages of documents" Trump claims Former President Obama "kept"...

  • Former President Obama does not personally have any of the documents, nor does he have control over the documents.
  • The outgoing Obama administration left the documents in care of the proper authorities: NARA.
  • The outgoing Obama administration complied with the Presidential Records Act.
  • The documents are kept in NARA facilities.
  • NARA is aware of all the documents under its care.
  • The documents transferred near Chicago are unclassified.
  • The classified documents are in a NARA facility near Washington, D.C.

Declassified or not, the documents of a presidency are not the personal property of the outgoing president; they are property of the American people and the law requires they must be properly declassified and archived to be available to the American people.

7
  • Could you improve the answer by clarifying the "The documents are unclassified" statement? I cannot imagine that all Obama administration documents are unclassified. That would mean that the answer is incomplete (the classified documents are not stored by NARA, but somewhere else) or incorrect (NARA also stores the classified documents)
    – fishinear
    Aug 15, 2022 at 13:01
  • 1
    @fishinear The "approximately 30 million pages of unclassified records" which are the subject of the question. What happened to the rest of the Obama Admin's documents is off topic.
    – Schwern
    Aug 15, 2022 at 15:57
  • @fishinear How's that? A little reminder at the end.
    – Schwern
    Aug 15, 2022 at 16:04
  • I, too, stumbled over the first sentence. I recommend moving "unclassified" two words earlier, to make it read "The 30+ million unclassified documents are in...."
    – nitsua60
    Aug 16, 2022 at 0:38
  • @called2voyage How does it read now?
    – Schwern
    Aug 16, 2022 at 16:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .