Three federal appeals court judges in Washington, D.C. have ruled in favor of President Donald Trump and his White House staff in a lawsuit requesting full compliance with the Presidential Records Act of 1978.
The lawsuit was brought about by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), who asserted that Trump and his staff were violating that 1978 record keeping law by using self-deleting messaging applications. But the three judges ruled that the courts lack the authority to “micromanage” everyday compliance with the law.
The Presidential Records Act of 1978 came about as a result of the Watergate scandal, President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974 and the destruction of some Watergate-related documents. But technology has evolved considerably since the 1970s. And one of the three judges in the ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge David Tatel, wrote in a 14-page opinion, “Richard Nixon could only have dreamed of the technology at issue in this case: message-deleting apps that guarantee confidentiality by encrypting messages and then erasing them forever once read by the recipient.”
Nonetheless, Tatel and two other judges, Nina Pillard and Harry Edwards, all felt that CREW’s recommendations in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Trumpwere unenforceable — and that the federal courts could not “micromanage the president’s day-to-day compliance” with the Presidential Records Act of 1978.
CREW filed the lawsuit in 2017 because of reports that Trump aides were using self-deleting messaging apps for government communications even though an internal memo asked them to refrain from doing that when addressing official White House business.
Tatel, Pillard and Edwards were all appointed by Democratic presidents.