Trump Presidential Library Launches Online But Won’t Take FOIA Requests Until 2026

Trump Presidential Library Launches Online But Won’t Take FOIA Requests Until 2026
Donald Trump holding notes at the White House on November 20, 2019, presumably a record that has been retained by the Trump Presidential Library, provided he didn't destroy it first. (Photo: Joshua Lott / AFP, Getty Images)
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The U.S. National Archives officially launched the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library’s website on Wednesday, the new digital home of the worst presidency in modern U.S. history. But if you’re excited to finally file a bunch of Freedom of Information Act requests about Trump’s criminal undertakings, we have bad news. The vast majority of Trump’s records won’t be available until 2026.

The Trump Presidential Library only exists online at this point and is quite sparse. However, it’s entirely factual since it’s administered by the professionals at the National Archives. Click on President Trump’s bio and you’ll get basic information about when he was elected, the stated goals of his presidency, and the names of his children.

You’ll also get this bit of “history” that’s still playing out in real time:

In 2021 President Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives for having incited an insurrection against the government of the United States.

Gone is the Trumpian bluster and bravado as well as the need to put the word “historic” in front of every supposed accomplishment. Historians and archivists at the National Archives now get to tell the story of what the hell happened over the past four very long and excruciating years.

The White House and Congress are both explicitly exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, an exemption that hampers a lot of journalism here in the 21st century. But official presidential records do become available through FOIA starting five years after a president leaves office. That means some records from the Trump White House will become available in January of 2026. When that finally happens, you’ll be sending your request to the National Archives, which runs every presidential records request by living presidents before redactions and releases are made.

While most Americans are happy to be done with Trump and probably hesitated to even click on this blog, given the widespread desire to just move on with a seemingly normal government under newly inaugurated President Joe Biden, there’s something oddly comforting about seeing Trump’s Presidential Library get launched online. Why? It places Trump in the past tense.

Nixon, Reagan, Clinton — they all have presidential libraries administered through the National Archives. Obama’s records, by the way, are subject to FOIA starting January 2022, so mark your calendars. But everything that’s currently available on the newly launched Trump presidency website has been released before to the public in some form or another, whether it’s photos or archived websites.

Oddly enough, the National Archives even takes donations from the Trump era that it deems worthy of archiving. All you need to do is email [email protected] with the subject line “Archival Donation” and let them know what you’re interested in donating. But remember to be nice. Just because these people are archiving Trump’s records doesn’t mean they like the 45th president. There are plenty of staff at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, as one example, who have explained in previous interviews that they were drawn to work there because they were fascinated by the corruption of the Nixon presidency, not because they agreed with Nixon politically.

Trump famously destroyed plenty of records that were supposed to be preserved for history, in direct contravention of the Presidential Records Act, so we’ll see what survived in 2026. Archivists at the White House were tasked with literally taping papers back together early in the Trump era since the man enjoyed shredding everything that came across his desk. One advisor, Omarosa Newman, even described an instance when she saw Trump eating a sensitive document in the Oval Office in order to destroy it.

Trump is finally a museum piece as the Biden administration seeks to undo the damage of Trump’s cruel policies. And speaking of museums, it’s not clear where Trump will build his own Presidential Museum yet — a frequent companion to every modern presidential museum. The rumours are that he wants to place it in Florida somewhere, which is a predictable choice, and Trump is reportedly trying to raise $US2 ($3) billion to build it. Presidential museums are all built with private funds, while the “library” portion is administered by the U.S. government.

May we suggest building Trump’s museum someplace in Florida that will be under water soon? It would be a fitting choice, given Trump’s inaction on climate change.