And I’m stealing this Tim Grieve post, pretty much wholesale:
The problem with [the White House’s claim that preservation of staff email is a “grey area”]: The Presidential Records Act specifically acknowledges the existence of communications that are part official and part political — and it requires that they be preserved.
From 44 U.S.C. Section 2201: “The term ‘presidential records’ means documentary materials … created or received by the president, his immediate staff, or a unit or individual of the Executive Office of the President whose function is to advise and assist the president, in the course of conducting activities which relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the president. Such term … includes any documentary materials relating to the political activities of the president or members of his staff, but only if such activities relate to or have a direct effect upon the carrying out of constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the president.”
And from 44 U.S.C. Section 2202: “The United States shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of presidential records; and such records shall be administered in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.”
The not-so-hard-to-understand import of it all: Even if an e-mail message involves “the political activities of the president or members of his staff,” it belongs to the United States — and therefore must be preserved — so long as it relates to the official duties of the president.
As I’ve noted elsewhere, the White House’s actions not only violate the law, but they make a mockery of the the efforts that thousands and thousands of civil servants and members of the military go through – every day – to make sure the their communications comply with the law.