Former President Donald Trump has reportedly insisted some of the presidential documents from his time in office belong to him, and not the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). But while Trump and his supporters continue to criticize the FBI’s recent search for classified papers at his Mar-a-Lago home, his presidential library’s website is still hosted by the Archives.
The official Donald J. Trump Presidential Library is probably a bit different than his supporters would expect. The Office of Donald J. Trump website, which was created by Trump’s team, describes him as “dethroning political dynasties, defeating the Washington establishment, and becoming the first true outsider elected as president of the United States.”
However, the Archive’s Trump Presidential Library is mainly a staid repository of archived websites and social media of the 45th U.S. president’s administration. “Following his father’s footsteps, Trump began a notable career as a real estate developer and businessman,” it says.
But flowery language aside, there is one big difference between the two sites. Trump’s personal site doesn’t mention his unprecedented status as a twice-impeached president. The Library website does not leave out this detail. It lists the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in the Ukraine impeachment. It also notes the charge of “having incited an insurrection against the government of the United States” in Trump’s second impeachment, with an accompanying statement saying that Trump was not convicted either time.
It’s unclear whether Trump is aware of or approves of the Trump Presidential Library. There was no reply to an email request by HuffPost for comment from Trump’s team.
Since the 1980s, presidential records have been considered by law to be the government’s property and held by the Archives in Washington, D.C., once the president leaves office or until a library can be constructed.
Archives “establishes an initial web presence that it controls and manages for each Presidential Library as soon as possible after a president leaves office,” according to the Archives’ Public and Media Communications staff in an email to HuffPost.
Former presidents can’t use public money to build a library and have to raise private funds to construct the facilities, which are then turned over to the Archives to run. It must also have an endowment to help fund its day-to-day operations.
There is an option for combined libraries and official “centers” or museums, such as the George W. Bush Library. Former President Barack Obama opted for a separate library and presidential center, with the latter having no involvement from the Archives. In either case, the presidential records are supposed to stay with NARA and near D.C. until a physical facility is opened.
“A number of Trump administration officials, including President Trump, used personal accounts when conducting government business.”
– National Archives and Records Administration
Aside from bio pages on Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump, the Trump Presidential Library also has links to a FAQ, a page about presidential libraries, archived Trump administration websites, and a page on archived social media.
Notably, it contains a link to the @POTUS45 official presidential Twitter account. Trump’s personal account on the social media platform, which was banned by Twitter in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capital, was not listed.
“A number of Trump administration officials, including President Trump, used personal accounts when conducting government business. The National Archives will make the social media content from those designated accounts publicly available as soon as possible,” according to the site.
The Trump Presidential Library site went up the day after he left office on Jan. 21, 2021, without input from Trump or his staff. “No, the website was independently established by NARA as part of carrying out our mission and we do not seek input or approval from a former president as part of this process,” the agency told HuffPost Tuesday.
Trump has reportedly made his feelings known about the classified documents the FBI searched for at his Florida home, according to the New York Times he told his advisors, “it’s not theirs, it’s mine.”
Of course, that view is not shared by the Archives, as noted in its announcement of the Donald Trump Presidential Library website in 2021.
“Regardless of whether a former president decides to build and donate an archival research facility and museum to NARA under the Presidential Libraries Act,” the agency said, “the National Archives maintains the collection of presidential records created by the presidential administration as a Presidential Library.”