"At a time when much of the focus has centered on ascertaining former President Donald Trump’s role in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol; his attempts to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to not certify the electoral votes; his calls to state officials urging them to select alternate lists of electors; and investigations of his tax returns, it was surprising to find that the FBI had secured a warrant from a judge (an action that requires the establishment of 'probable cause') to search his Florida residence for documents that may not be specifically related to any of these events," explains Constitutional Law expert John R. Vile.

"Ever since the Nixon Administration, the government has required presidents to secure and preserve such documents. It now appears that Trump may have carried documents (possibly including some that were top secret) to his residence," Vile continues.

"Without knowing what the documents are, it is difficult to know how consequential this might be, but presidents and their staffs are clearly informed of the law, which is designed to preserve the historical record for posterity," says Vile.  

"Sunshine has been characterized as the greatest disinfectant, and it is difficult for Congress to legislate, for citizens to cast informed ballots, and for the government to work without access to information," states Vile.

"The attempt to gain whatever presidential documents Trump might have gains additional urgency amid reports that he sometimes burned such documents, or flushed them down toilets. All such acts are potential evidence that Trump might have been engaging in actions that he knew to be immoral, illegal, or both," Vile concludes.

Vile is available for interviews on the political and historical aspects of the preservation of presidential records.

Vile is a professor of Political Science and the dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University. He has written and edited numerous books on American politics and law, including A Companion to the U.S. Constitution and its Amendments. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, who earned his Ph.D. in Government from the University of Virginia.