President Trump
President Donald Trump walks out to announce proposed reforms to the U.S. air traffic control system during an event at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Photo: Reuters

President Donald Trump and White House aides are breaking federal law by using encrypted messaging apps that keep their conversations off the public record, a federal lawsuit alleged Thursday.

 

Two Washington watchdog groups have accused the Trump administration of destroying electronic communications, including tweets, in violation of the Presidential Records Act, which mandates preservation of White House internal communications.

 

The groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive, filed the lawsuit Thursday morning in federal court in Washington.

 

“President Trump and others within the White House are either ignoring or outright flouting these responsibilities,” the suit reads.

 

Following Richard Nixon’s presidency, Congress passed the Presidential Records Act in 1978, setting strict rules for the preservation of presidential records during a presidential term — including electronic messages like email, Facebook and Twitter.

 

Under the law, the federal government must maintain ownership and control of all presidential records, including records created by the president's staff.

The civil complaint notes that Trump has deleted several tweets since taking office and cites media reports that White House staffers have been communicating via Signal and Confide, messaging apps that delete messages after they are read.

It also points to at least one news report where White House staffers purged their phones of compromising information.

“The president also has implied that he is secretly tape-recording some or all conversations with administration officials, and it is unclear if these tapes are being preserved,” the lawsuit reads.

The White House has denied the accusations in the lawsuit.

“The White House doesn't permit the use of apps such as this and works diligently to ensure all staff comply with the Presidential Records Act,” a White House official told Newsweek.

The purpose of the act is to preserve records that can help explain the president’s thinking and decision making.

“The American people not only deserve to know how their government is making important decisions, it’s the law,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement to The Daily Caller. “By deleting these records, the White House is destroying essential historical records.”