US Capitol (Ann Cantelow/

Lawmakers: In transition, agencies must preserve records

Some of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill are warning agency leaders that they must closely obey federal law and properly preserve records and data in this transition period between the end of the election and Inauguration Day.

The lawmakers, all Democrats and all chairs of the top committees in the House of Representatives, made explicit their concerns in letters they sent to over 50 federal agencies.

“As the 116th Congress and the Trump Administration approach the conclusion of our respective terms, we write to remind you that you and your employees, including all component agencies and offices, must comply with the record preservation obligations set forth in federal law,” the letters state. “[And] to remind you of your and your agency’s ongoing obligations to preserve information relevant to congressional oversight.”

The letters were signed by five leading lawmakers, all chairs: Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) of the Committee on Oversight and Reform; Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) of the Committee on Appropriations; James P. McGovern (D-Mass.) of the Committee on Rules; Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The letters were very blunt as to why—in the several lawmakers’ view—their authors felt the need to press the agency leaders for something as basic as compliance with the nations’ record-keeping and archiving laws.

“Over the last four years, the administration obstructed numerous congressional investigations by refusing to provide responsive information,” the letters say. “You are obligated to ensure that any information previously requested by Congress—and any other information that is required by law to be preserved—is saved and appropriately archived in a manner that is easily retrievable.”

The lawmakers additionally requested that agencies also retain additional records, including those produced in connection with investigations by and requests from Congress. Some resources on the requirements and procedures of federal government recordkeeping—under authority of the Federal Records Act and other laws—are available on resource pages on the National Archives website as well as other online locations, including certain OPM pages.

While the margin between the two major parties will narrow in the new House of Representatives—with some races still having the votes counted—it is certain that Democrats will retain control of the 435-member body.

Reader comments

Wed, Nov 11, 2020 Joe

They're probably hiding records as best possible now. I don't know but I hope the electronic records are secure at most agencies???

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