The facts behind Trump’s garbage claim that Obama ‘kept’ 33 million documents

The unclassified documents from the Obama administration are at the official Obama Presidential Library in Hoffman Estates; classified material is in Maryland.

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The official Barack Obama Presidential Library, operated by the National Archives and Records Administration, 2500 W. Golf Road in Hoffman Estates, photographed on Aug. 28, 2018.

The official Barack Obama Presidential Library, operated by the National Archives and Records Administration, is at 2500 W. Golf Road in the northwest suburb of Hoffman Estates. It is closed to the public.

Neesa Sweet/For the Sun-Times

Former President Donald Trump, under federal criminal investigation for taking classified White House records to his Mar-A-Largo estate in Florida, is desperately trying to change the subject by falsely accusing ex-President Barack Obama of keeping 33 million records from his administration.

Not true. Wrong. Deceitful. Garbage.

The search warrant, unsealed on Friday, revealed 11 sets of classified documents were seized at Mar-A-Largo, with Trump being investigated for possibly obstructing a federal probe and violating the Espionage Act.

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Trump and his allies are trying to fool the public by fabricating a nonsense narrative and spreading it across social media and on friendly outlets that Obama did the same thing and maybe worse. Trump is making this up.

Setting the record straight on this one is not complicated, since we know where the Obama records are — in northwest suburban Hoffman Estates and in Maryland.

Trump in a Friday statement 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!”

In another statement, Trump said, “The bigger problem is, what are they going to do with the 33 million pages of documents, many of which are classified, that President Obama took to Chicago?”

On Thursday, Trump put this out: “What happened to the 30 million pages of documents taken from the White House to Chicago by Barack Hussein Obama? He refused to give them back! What is going on? This act was strongly at odds with NARA. Will they be breaking into Obama’s ‘mansion’ in Martha’s Vineyard”?

THE FACTS

All of the documents from the Obama administration are in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration. NARA took legal and physical custody of records and artifacts from Obama’s two terms when it ended on Jan. 20, 2017, as called for in the Presidential Records Act.

• The documents — and NARA puts the number at 30 million, not 33 million — were packed up and trucked to 2500 W. Golf Road in Hoffman Estates. For now, that is the official home of the Barack Obama Presidential Library. It’s in a leased former furniture store on a busy street. NARA runs the presidential library system.

No signs call attention to the location, and the Barack Obama Presidential Library is not open to the public. After first landing in Hoffman Estates, the classified material was eventually sent to a NARA facility in Maryland. The NARA staffers in Hoffman Estates are organizing Obama’s unclassified papers and preserving artifacts — some 35,000 objects — from jackets, to gifts from foreign leaders to one of the Cross pens used to sign the Obamacare law.

Check it out for yourself — here is the link to NARA’s official Barack Obama Presidential Library website in Hoffman Estates: obamalibrary.gov.

• In a Friday statement, NARA said it “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, D.C, area. 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.”

• The Obama documents and artifacts were hauled by NARA to Hoffman Estates in anticipation of establishing the Obama Presidential Library in the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.

In May 2017, Obama’s team — in a surprise move, at least to the public — announced there would be no presidential library at his center, a move that saved Obama millions of dollars and gave him full control of his center, under construction in Jackson Park.

Instead, NARA would store the records and artifacts and a new model — a digital presidential library — would be created.

The Obama Foundation is paying NARA to digitalize Obama’s documents.

That decision meant Obama did not have to raise millions of dollars for the endowment — money NARA would have demanded — or pay for more expensive structures in order to comply with NARA design and security specifications.

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