Records Show Archives Official Met With Biden White House Counsel Day of Indictment Against Trump

Richard Sauber
by Steven Richards


On June 8, 2023, Gary Stern, the General Counsel of the National Archives arrived at the White House for a meeting with Special Counsel to President Biden Richard Sauber. The meeting reportedly took place in the Navy Mess, a “nautical” themed dining room run by the seafaring military branch, according to White House records.

It is not known what Stern and Sauber discussed, but the very same day, the Justice Department filed its indictment against former President Donald Trump alleging he “unlawfully” retained classified documents.

The record of the meeting, obtained from the Biden White House visitor logs is the latest evidence showing the close cooperation between the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Biden White House regarding the Trump classified documents case.

As Just the News recently reported, Stern began communicating with White House officials as early as May 2021 as he sought to retrieve documents retained by former President Trump. The Archives asserts that Trump improperly retained these documents after his term ended, a belief disputed by Trump’s legal team.

Last week, newly unsealed court documents showed that beginning in 2021, the Biden White House coordinated closely with Archives officials, presumably to ratchet up pressure on Trump to return classified documents and coordinated with Justice Department officials to draft a criminal referral.

These efforts came at the same time that President Biden’s staff was made aware of the president’s own classified documents problem.

According to the visitor logs, Stern also met with White House officials on at least 19 other occasions from 2021 to 2023 as his agency sought the documents retained by Trump, though only a handful of meetings were with the White House Counsel’s office.

In early August, records indicate Stern met with then-Deputy White House Counsel Jonathan Su in the West Wing. The unsealed court records show Stern would ultimately consult with Su in January 2022 about his agency’s efforts to retrieve the classified memos from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property, Just the News reported last week.

Su referred Stern to Department of Justice officials, Associate Deputy Attorneys General Emily Loeb and David Newman. It was from this referral that the federal case against the former president was born. Later in 2022, Attorney General Merrick Garland would approve an official investigation into Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents and would appoint Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee the criminal investigation in November.

Previously, Just the News reported that then-White House Deputy Counsel Jonathan Su was engaged in conversations with the FBI, DOJ, and the National Archives as early as April 2022, shortly after Trump and his associates voluntarily returned 15 boxes of classified documents and other presidential records to the agency. But now, according to the dates referenced in the court documents, these contacts are known to have started months earlier.

In Just the News’s previous reporting, documents showed the Biden White House was engaged in conversations with the FBI, DOJ, and National Archives to facilitate access to the documents for investigators probing the former president’s handling of classified documents, despite publicly claiming it had no prior knowledge about the well-publicized FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.

On September 1, Stern circulated a draft referral intended for the Justice Department after documents were not returned to seek the agencies assistance.

“Attached is a draft letter that we could consider sending to the Attorney General about missing Trump records,” Stern wrote in an email. “It focuses only on the paper records that we believe to be missing.”

When he circulated the draft letter internally, Stern told colleagues he had been in contact with “DOJ counsel” about the matter and was continuing to communicate with the White House Counsel’s Office, showing the Biden administration was in the loop about the efforts to repossess Trump’s documents.

The draft letter urged the Attorney General to assist NARA in recovering presidential records “unlawfully removed from the U.S. Government custody or possibly destroyed in violation of the Presidential Records Act (PRA).”

The following day, according to White House records, Stern again visited the White House and met with then-White House Counsel Dana Remus in the West Wing, likely with then-National Archivist David Ferriero, who is recorded visiting Remus on the same day.

Remus is an Obama Administration and Biden campaign alum who then moved to the Biden White House. She left the administration in August 2022.

“The National Archives is an Executive Branch Agency.  As is the case with every administration, National Archives senior staff routinely meet and work with White House officials on issues dealing with the Presidential Records Act, the Presidential Libraries Act, records management, access to government records, and the overall administration of the agency,” said NARA, in statement released by the National Archives Public and Media Communications staff.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment from Just the News.

Records show Ferriero, the head of NARA, visited Biden’s White House two other times, one in early February 2021 and another in September 2021, shortly after the first meeting with Stern and Remus. In the second meeting, records show that Ferriero and Stern again met with Remus in the West Wing.

Based on a letter from Remus to Ferriero released on Oct. 8, 2021 by the White House, that meeting appears to have covered the House Jan. 6 Select Committee’s efforts to obtain documents from President Trump’s term in office. In the letter, Remus declined to exercise executive privilege over the Trump records requested by the committee.

That summer, in June, the unsealed court records show that Ferriero was becoming increasingly frustrated with the Trump team’s efforts to return the classified documents. After he was forwarded an email from the Trump team that explained they were working on coordinating a transfer of certain material NARA had asked for, Ferriero said the arrangements did not address the “24 missing boxes.”

“I am running out of patience,” Ferriero wrote, according to the court exhibits.

Ferriero could not be reached for comment by Just the News. The Archivist retired from the agency in April 2022.

“I’m extraordinarily proud of what we have accomplished together during my tenure and hope that you too take pride in our efforts and results,” Ferriero wrote in his retirement announcement.

“It is not easy to leave the National Archives with so much exciting work in progress,” he added.

Famously, Ferriero described how he watched the media coverage of President Biden’s inauguration and saw something that bothered him, President Trump and his wife Melania being followed by a “minion” carrying white boxes out of the White House.

“A minion behind them was carrying a white records box,” he recalled. “And I’m like, ‘What the hell is he doing?'” Ferriero said. This observation would eventually spur the request to Trump’s team for the records.

In a question and answer session at UNC Chapel Hill, Ferriero told the audience that “political savvy” is a useful skill, even for navigating supposedly nonpartisan offices. In his previous jobs, which included the direct of the New York Public Libraries, he said he had to determine “who has the power, who controls the purse strings for the public and who you need to be sucking up to to get what you need.”

After the raid on Mar-a-Lago, the FBI neatly laid out documents as a photo-op for media. When documents – some classified – were seized from President Biden’s unsecure garage and the Penn-Biden Center, the FBI did not do the same.

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Steven Richards joined Just the News in August 2023 after previously working as a Research Analyst for the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) in Tallahassee, Florida. He is a two-time graduate of Florida State University with a Masters in Political Science and a B.S. in International Affairs.
Photo “Richard Sauber” by US Government. Background Photo “US National Archives Building” by David Samuel. CC BY-SA 3.0.



Reprinted with permission from Just the News.

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