June 9, 2023 – Judicial Watch: The “Clinton Sock Drawer” case vs. the Trump Mar-a-Lago raid and indictment case

In Email/Dossier/Govt Corruption Investigations, Featured Timeline Entries by Katie Weddington

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In 2010, Judicial Watch submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Clinton Library and Presidential Museum, seeking access to the Clinton audiotapes from his time as President. The Obama National Archives (NARA) responded that the audiotapes are personal records and therefore not subject to the Presidential Records Act or FOIA. Judicial Watch subsequently sued and requested that the Court to declare the audiotapes to be Presidential records and, because they are not currently in the government’s possession, to compel NARA to assume custody and control over them.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against Judicial Watch. In doing so, she explained:

“Under the statutory scheme established by the PRA, the decision to segregate personal materials from Presidential records is made by the President, during the President’s term and in his sole discretion, see 44 U.S.C. § 2203(b), so [NARA] could not make . . . a classification decision” different from that of President.

“Since the President is completely entrusted with the management and even the disposal of Presidential records during his time in office, it would be difficult for this Court to conclude that Congress intended that he would have less authority to do what he pleases with what he considers to be his personal records.”

“The PRA contains no provision obligating or even permitting the Archivist to assume control over records that the President ‘categorized’ and ‘filed separately’ as personal records. At the conclusion of the President’s term, the Archivist only ‘assumes responsibility for the Presidential records.’”

“Plaintiff contends that its factual allegations about the nature and substance of the audiotapes clearly establishes them to be Presidential records, regardless of how they were treated by President Clinton. The Court is not so sure. But even if the Court were inclined to agree with plaintiff’s reassessment of President Clinton’s decision, it would not alter the conclusion that the injury cannot be redressed: the PRA does not confer any mandatory or even discretionary authority on the Archivist to classify records. Under the statute, this responsibility is left solely to the President. While the plaintiff casts this lawsuit as a challenge to a decision made by the National Archives, the PRA makes it clear that this is not a decision the Archivist can make, and in this particular case, it is not a decision the Archivist did make because President Clinton’s term ended in 2000, and the tapes were not provided to the Archives at that time.”


While in office, President Clinton enlisted historian Taylor Branch to assist him in creating an oral history of his eight years in office by recording 79 audiotapes that preserved not only President Clinton’s thoughts and commentary on contemporaneous events and issues he was facing as president, but, in some instances, recorded actual events such as presidential telephone conversations. For example, the audiotapes contained the following content: