On Thursday, lawyers for Donald Trump's presidential transition circulated a memo instructing people who worked for the team to preserve documents, in anticipation of turning records over to investigators exploring Russian interference in the 2016 election. The preservation order is a sign of the broadening investigations.
The request asked staffers to compile all documents related to Russia and Ukraine, but also asked for documents related to background research that had been conducted into five men associated with the Trump campaign: former campaign chairman Paul Manafort; Manafort's longtime business associate Rick Gates,; Lt. Gen Michael Flynn, who served briefly as National Security Adviser; Carter Page, who had served as an informal adviser to the campaign; and longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone.
The text of the memo, sent from the general counsel's office to "All Presidential Transition Team Personnel," is below:
As you know, there are several pending investigations into potential attempts by Russian interests to influence the 2016 election and related issues. In order to assist these investigations, the Presidential Transition Team and its current and former personnel have a responsibility to ensure that, to the extent potentially relevant documents exist, they are properly preserved.
As a former staffer or volunteer of the Presidential Transition Team, you have a duty to preserve any physical and electronic records that may be related in any way to the subject matter of the pending investigations, as described below in more detail. You must preserve any written documents that you have, or that are reasonably in your possession, custody or control, as well as any electronic information stored on your computer, smart phone, or other data systems. Electronically stored information includes, for example, e-mails; voicemails; text messages; instant messages; social media posts; Word or WordPerfect documents; spreadsheets; databases; telephone logs; audio recordings; videos; photographs or images; information contained on desktops, laptops, tablet computers, smartphones, or other portable devices; calendar records and diary data. If information is in both electronic and paper forms, you should preserve both forms. Preservation may require you to disable any automatic archiving or deletion functions on your computer, smart phone, or other data system. Failure to follow these protocols could result in criminal or civil penalties, and could form the basis of legal claims, legal presumptions, or jury instructions relating to spoliation of evidence.
Specifically, to the extent they exist, please preserve all such records that relate in any way to the following subject areas:
1. The Russian Federation, including its officials, agents or nationals.
2. Ukraine, including its officials, agents or nationals.
3. Investigations into the backgrounds of Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Carter Page, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and/or Roger Stone.
4. Any foreign travel (whether official or unofficial) by any employees, contractors, consultants, advisors or volunteers for Trump for America, Inc. (also known as the Presidential Transition Team) and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.
5. Investigations by the United States Department of Justice, the United States Senate, or the United States House of Representatives (or any office, division or committee of any of the foregoing) concerning any of the subject matters set forth in items 1 through 4 above.
With this in mind, please immediately suspend any deletion, modification, overwriting, or other possible destruction of the information described above, including electronic information, and take all reasonable measures to preserve this information. Additionally, to the extent such materials or information were generated or obtained owing to your role on the Presidential Transition Team, please return the materials or information to the custody and control of the Presidential Transition Team at the following address:
Trump for America, Inc.
c/o Statecraft PLLC
649 North Fourth Avenue, Suite B
Phoenix, Arizona 85003
There is no need for you to return to us any materials saved to your ptt.gov email account or network drive, or that were already turned in as part of the offboarding process. Rather, please return to us such materials, if any, that were not saved to the Presidential Transition Team email system or network and are in your personal files or on your personal devices. If you do not have any such materials in your personal files or on your personal devices, there is no need for you to respond to this notice.