WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) reintroduced the Promoting Accountability and Security in Transition (PAST) Act, to clarify and enhance existing law with regards to presidential transition and presidential records. Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.-05) introduced the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The more we learn about the Trump administration’s efforts to hide and destroy presidential records – especially from January 6th – the more obvious it is we need reform that promotes transparency and accountability from the executive branch. Our bill improves existing laws related to presidential transitions and presidential records and establishes the first real consequences for the destruction of records,” said Murphy.

The Promoting Accountability and Security in Transition Act clarifies and improves existing law in three main areas:

  1. Presidential Records
  • Requires the President to receive written guidance from the Archivist before destroying any records and make this guidance publicly available;
  • Requires the Archivist to inspect White House records management, training, and standard operating procedures on a biannual basis;
  • Allows judicial review of access restrictions to Presidential Records and allows a Congressional Committee Ranking Members to request exemptions to access restrictions after a President’s term in office;
  • Requires the Archivist to provide regulations for documenting records created on non-official electronic messaging accounts (e.g. WhatsApp), preserving social media messaging (e.g. Twitter), and narrow exemptions for using applications with automatic deleting functionalities (e.g. Signal, Confide); and
  • Requires the President to prohibit White House staff from using non-official electronic messaging accounts that cannot be easily copied or forwarded to official accounts and all messaging accounts with automatic deleting functionalities.

2.       Presidential Transitions

  • Ensures president-elects receive comprehensive and timely briefings on vital national security information during a transition;
  • Requires the General Services Administrator to independently ascertain the President-elect within six calendar days of an election and provide sources to any plausible winning candidates to support continuity of government; and
  • During a transition, requires the Archivist to work with the Federal Transition Coordination to monitor records preservation compliance and report any compliance issues to Congress.

3.       Responsibilities of Former Presidents

  • Establishes consequences for former Presidents that destroy Presidential records, including restricting post-presidency salary and staff, prohibiting public funding for Presidential Library construction, and preventing presidential records from being entrusted to a Presidential Library or Museum regardless of whether public funds were used for construction; and
  • Requires former Presidents to cover the entire cost of digitizing records for display in a Presidential Library.