Fact Check – National Archives and Records Administration says it handles all of Obama’s presidential records, contrary to online claims

Claims that the Obama Foundation keeps classified documents in an “abandoned furniture warehouse” contradict official statements and protocol regarding where the documents are kept. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) said it screens and controls classified and unclassified records relating to the Obama administration in accordance with federal law.

Articles (here) and social media posts (here) (here) referencing a 2018 letter (here) signed by a representative of the Obama Foundation, which outlines the foundation’s agreement to provide financial resources to “digitize, move, and store archives” to build Obama’s Presidential Library. (here)

Social media posts highlight the following section, which mentions “classified and unclassified” documents and artifacts:

“The Obama Foundation agrees to transfer up to three million three hundred thousand dollars ($3,300,000) to the National Archives Trust Fund (NATF) to support the transfer of classified and unclassified Obama presidential documents and artifacts from Hoffman Estates to NARA-controlled facilities that comply with the agency’s archiving standards for these documents and artifacts, and for the modification of these spaces. »

This has led some users to allege that the Hoffman Estates facility in Chicago is administered by the Obama Foundation and currently holds classified records. Both statements are false.

NARA’s public statements regarding Obama’s presidential records can be viewed (here).

WHO CONTROLS THE FILES?

According to the agency, after the end of the Obama administration in 2017, NARA took “legal and physical custody of Obama’s presidential records,” as provided for in the Presidential Records Act (PRA), a federal statute. which states that the United States “reserves and retains complete ownership, possession, and control of the Presidential Records” (here).

The Hoffman Estates facility once stored classified records, “in a properly secured compartment inside the facility,” according to NARA. But because Obama’s presidential library will be digital (www.obamalibrary.gov/about-us) (www.obama.org/obama-archives/), the agency has moved Obama’s classified records to another managed facility. by NARA in Washington, DC.

About 30 million pages of unclassified documents were moved to the Chicago facility, also administered exclusively by NARA, and remain there according to the agency.

In a separate statement, NARA clarified that the Obama Foundation had provided them with funds “to help convert the Hoffman Estates facility to cover some of the expenses of moving classified documents, but the foundation never had possession. or document control”.

THE LOCATION

It’s true that the Hoffman Estates facility in Chicago, Illinois (here) was formerly a furniture store (here) (goo.gl/maps/PBCiLAU2FNdGTDYUA) (see Yelp entry: here) – as some posts claim in line.

In 2016 outlets like The Chicago Tribune (here) and The Daily Herald (here) reported on the future use of the facility, stating that the materials would be kept there until the Barack Obama Presidential Center is completed. Both reports mention that NARA workers would handle the files. While the initial lease was set for six years, it was extended until 2026, the Daily Herald reported on August 3, 2022 (here).

The Obama Foundation did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Reuters contacted the PJ Media website, one of the news outlets that reported allegations that the Obama Foundation is keeping classified documents. They have since deleted their post (here) and posted a correction (here)

VERDICT

Fake. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) said it had sole control of all of Obama’s presidential records. The foundation provided NARA with funds to adapt a facility in Chicago, a former furniture store, to store the records and to transport classified records to another NARA-controlled location, the agency said.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Learn more about our fact-checking work here.