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Presidential Record Keeping

Frequently Asked Questions

Who creates Presidential records?

The Presidential Records Act (PRA) applies to records created by components of the Executive Office of the President (EOP) that solely advise and assist the President. The Federal Records Act does not cover these components. Even within the EOP, some components generate Federal records, while others generate Presidential records. Among the components of the EOP that create Presidential records are:

  • The White House Office
  • The Office of the Vice President
  • Office of Policy Development
  • Council of Economic Advisors
  • The National Security Council
  • The National Economic Council
  • The President’s Intelligence Advisory Board
  • The President’s Intelligence Oversight Board
  • The Office of Administration

Who has records management authority for Presidential records?

The PRA gives records management authority for incumbent Presidential records to the President and states that personal records should be kept separate upon their creation or receipt from the Presidential record files (44 U.S.C. § 2203(b)). Those responsible for maintaining file systems must keep personal records separate from Presidential records at the point of creation.

Are any records personal?

Just as with Federal records, some materials that you maintain in your office are personal records. As defined by the PRA, personal records are documentary materials, “...of a purely private or nonpublic character which do not relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President,” and which include, “...materials relating to private political associations,” and, “...materials relating exclusively to the President’s own election to the office of the Presidency” (44 U.S.C. § 2201(3)). Personal records would also include photographs, audio recordings, and videotapes of family events and gatherings. Personal records remain the personal property of the President or the record creator. Records creators should identify personal documents and file them separately from those files which contain Presidential records. Clearly defined filing systems will ensure that questions concerning record status do not arise. Should items mix, it becomes difficult to determine record status. Because the President has the discretion to determine what is personal material, this determination should be made during the incumbent’s term of office rather than after transfer of the records to the National Archives and Records Administration.

Can Presidential records be deleted or destroyed?

The PRA requires that the incumbent President must obtain the views in writing of the Archivist before disposing of the originals of any Presidential records. Under certain circumstances, the Archivist must inform Congress of the proposed disposal. In these cases, the President must wait at least 60 legislative days before disposing of them. After the President’s term, the Archivist has authority to dispose of Presidential records, following a public notice and comment period (44 U.S.C. 2203(c)-(f)).

Who can provide assistance and guidance for Presidential records?

The Presidential Materials Division of NARA can provide guidance and assistance on Presidential records issues. For any questions or to receive further information, please reach out to presidential.materials@nara.gov.

Additional Resources:

Last Reviewed: 2020-10-30