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Before the Presidential Records Act of 1978, presidents owned their papers

Washington Post: Now all presidents, including Donald Trump, must turn them over to the National Archives. “Until the 1970s, former presidents could do pretty much whatever they wanted with their presidential papers. That often was a problem. Some papers “were purposely destroyed, while others fell victim to chance destruction,” concluded a 1978 congressional study. “Others have been scattered to the four winds.” As the nation’s first president, Washington set the precedent. He planned to construct a building at Mount Vernon to store his papers, but he didn’t get it done. On the last day of his life in late 1799, according to Mount Vernon’s historians, Washington told his secretary Tobias Lear, “I find I am going, my breath cannot continue long … arrange & record all my late Military letters & papers — arrange my accounts & settle my books.”…

See also DOJ to Judge – Trump’s Mar-a-Lago documents already examined by FBI

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