The US National Archives said it has retrieved 15 boxes of records that had been improperly removed from the White House and taken to former president Donald Trump's southern Florida home — including “love letters” from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The documents and mementos — which also included correspondence from former US president Barack Obama — should by law have been turned over at the end of Mr Trump's presidency but instead ended up at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.
The National Archives and Records Administration (Nara) pursues any records it learns have been “improperly removed or have not been appropriately transferred to official accounts”, Archivist of the United States David Ferriero told AFP on Monday.
“Whether through the creation of adequate and proper documentation, sound records management practices, the preservation of records, or the timely transfer of them to the National Archives at the end of an administration, there should be no question as to need for both diligence and vigilance. Records matter,” he said.
The agency said it did not receive the records until mid-January, however — almost a year late.
The former president told a West Virginia rally in 2018 about his relationship with Mr Kim: “We fell in love. No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters.”
The comment prompted the media, as well as Trump supporters and opponents alike, to dub the unusual correspondence the Trump-Kim “love letters".
The recovery of the boxes has raised questions about Mr Trump's adherence to presidential records laws enacted after the 1970s Watergate scandal that require Oval Office occupants to preserve records related to administration activity.
Mr Trump lost his bid last month to stop the Archives releasing diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts and other White House documents to the House committee investigating the 2021 US Capitol riot.
Some of the papers handed over had been “torn up by former President Trump” and taped back together, the Archives revealed. It added that it had also received a number of records that were still in pieces.
“It's all a pristine example of Trump's approach to the presidency, namely that the vast power exists for him and not for the American people, to whom these records in fact belong,” former deputy assistant attorney general Harry Litman said on Twitter.