WASHINGTON - The top attorney at the National Archives emailed former White House lawyers in May 2021 alerting them that the administration had failed to turn over correspondence between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg.
"There are also now certain paper/textual records that we cannot account for," wrote Mr Gary Stern, general counsel for the National Archives and Records Administration (Nara), wrote in a May 6, 2021 email sent to Mr Patrick Philbin, the former deputy White House counsel, his deputy Scott Gast and a Mr Trump lawyer, Mr Mike Purpura.
Mr Stern also points out that Mr Trump failed to turn over a letter that former President Barack Obama left for Mr Trump during the transition, a longstanding tradition between US presidents.
"For example, the original correspondence between President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un were not transferred to us; it is our understanding that in January 2021, just prior to the end of the administration, the originals were put in a binder for the president, but were never returned to the Office of Records Management for transfer to Nara," Mr Stern added.
"It is essential that these original records be transferred to Nara as soon as possible."
Those records are now part of a Justice Department investigation into dozens of boxes of documents that the FBI seized in the unprecedented search of Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, some containing materials classified at the highest level of Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmentalised Information.
Mr Stern added in his email, which carried the subject line, "Need for Assistance for Presidential Records," that the letter Mr Obama left for Mr Trump was also considered a presidential record, was unaccounted for and should be returned.
He said that Nara had learned that two dozen boxes of original presidential records were kept in the White House residence during Mr Trump's last year in office "and have not been transferred to Nara, despite a determination by Pat Cipollone in the final days of the administration that they need to be."
Mr Cipollone was Mr Trump's White House counsel from 2018 until the end of the administration.
The missing correspondence between Mr Kim and Mr Trump was reported in New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman's book, "Confidence Man."
That discovery led to a year-long back and forth negotiation between the federal government and Mr Trump, who refused to return documents, claiming he had declassified them or didn't have them, prompting the Aug 8 FBI search.
Mr Stern's email, along with a few dozen pages of other documents, were obtained by Bloomberg News in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. BLOOMBERG