Archives Lawyer at Center of Trump Raid Has Previously Targeted Another Republican President


Gary Stern, the general counsel for the National Archives and Records Administration, who played a central role in seeking to obtain documents former President Donald Trump held at his Mar-a-Lago home, sued then-President Ronald Reagan in 1989 over electronic records while the attorney worked for the American Civil Liberties Union.

What Trump and Reagan have in common is that they were the two most consequential Republican presidents of the last half-century.

The fact that Gary Stern worked as a staff attorney at the ACLU in the Washington, D.C., office may say something about his politics.

The ACLU sued Reagan in the case Armstrong v. Executive Office of the President and won, with the court concluding the White House had violated the Federal Records Act by not preserving certain electronic records.

Stern has been general counsel for the NARA since 1998 and apparently experienced no problems with how Democratic presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama turned over documents, or at least, no problems that led to the FBI invading their homes.

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Just the News reported, “Stern spoke on a panel in January 2021 called ‘Preserving Presidential Papers and Archives,’ where he explained the Presidential Records Act of 1978 — which was central to the Armstrong case — and how presidential records are supposed to be maintained.”

“In response to a question about someone leaving government and taking presidential records with them, Stern said that if original government documents that NARA doesn’t have are removed from the White House, then NARA will tell the person that ‘they have something that doesn’t belong to them and is government property and belongs to us,'” the news outlet added.

Most of the time in these instances, he said, the person gives the documents back. But, he added, “If they don’t, we can enforce that with the support of the Department of Justice to file a legal claim.”

Stern’s statements to the panel were a “sort of a shot across the bow” to Trump’s team, Katie Sullivan, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Trump Justice Department, told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Monday’s episode, according to Just the News.

Was the raid on Trump's Mar-a-Lago justified?

The New York Times reported that less than four months after Trump left office, in May 2021, Stern reached out via email to three of Trump’s attorneys to convey a firm message: “The archives had determined that more than two dozen boxes of Mr. Trump’s presidential records were missing, and it needed the lawyers’ ‘immediate assistance’ to retrieve them.”

A back-and-forth between the lawyers continued until January, when 15 boxes were returned to the Archives.

“In mid-January 2022, NARA arranged for the transport from the Trump Mar-a-Lago property in Florida to the National Archives of 15 boxes that contained Presidential records, following discussions with President Trump’s representatives in 2021. Former President Trump’s representatives have informed NARA that they are continuing to search for additional Presidential records that belong to the National Archives,” the NARA said in a February statement.

Trump, in his own statement at that time, said that the boxes he took to Mar-a-Lago “contained letters, records, newspapers, magazines and various articles” that would “someday” be featured in his presidential library, according to CNN.

Newsweek reported what really prompted the Aug. 8 raid was a desire to retrieve a certain “stash” of documents Trump allegedly had, according to “two high-level U.S. intelligence officials.”

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“They collected everything that rightfully belonged to the U.S. government but the true target was these documents that Trump had been collecting since early in his administration,” says the source, who was granted anonymity to discuss sensitive issues,” Newsweek said.

“The sought-after documents deal with a variety of intelligence matters of interest to the former president, the officials suggest—including material that Trump apparently thought would exonerate him of any claims of Russian collusion in 2016 or any other election-related charges,” according to Newsweek.

That’s the mainstream media’s nice way of saying the FBI wanted documents related to Russiagate that Trump had.

Former Reagan DOJ official and current Fox News host Mark Levin made a compelling case that the FBI raid was entirely unjustified, even if they were seeking to retrieve classified documents.

“[The] former president has the legal right to access any and all of the documents created during his presidency, classified or otherwise. Period,” Levin said on his program “Life, Liberty & Levin” on Sunday.

“So the former president cannot be charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 for this reason and more,” he said.

Not only did Levin say Trump is not guilty of violating the Espionage Act, which was invoked in the affidavit to obtain a search warrant, but he explained that there are no criminal penalties associated with the Presidential Records Act, also cited by the FBI.

Levin recounted that the National Archives is already in possession of the vast majority of documents created during the Trump administration, and the ones at issue are a very relative few.

Additionally, the former president’s lawyers had been in active negotiations regarding the documents, starting only a year after Trump left office.

Levin said this kind of back-and-forth is the norm and can go on for years.

He concluded, “Now you can see what’s going on here. It’s another disgusting ruse” by the FBI directed against Trump.

It sure looks that way.

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Randy DeSoto has written more than 2,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Graduated dean's list from West Point
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment, Faith