If a president, vice-president, or congress person retains classified documents past their term does the government have to show intent for it to be criminal?

2 Answers 2


It is not a crime for a president or a vice-president to retain documents (any) past their term in office. It is required under 44 USC Ch. 22 that a president or vice-president turn over records to the archivist, and if an ex-president refuses, a lawsuit could result whereby he is ordered to turn the records over. Intent or knowledge are therefore irrelevant since non-compliance is corrected but not punished.

  • While this is the general rule, strictly requirements (and punishments) apply, for example, to some documents related to national security.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 25, 2023 at 3:01
  • This answer is incorrect. See below.
    – bdb484
    Jan 25, 2023 at 3:25
  • @user6726 so a president can retain classified documents after their term in office? Where exactly did you read this? I looked at the 44 U.S. Code Chapter 22 and didn't see this anywhere. Jan 30, 2023 at 15:01

Yes. It is a crime if the president or vice president:

  1. Obtains classified information while in office;
  2. Knowingly removes it without authority; and
  3. With intent to retain it at an unauthorized location.

Whoever, being an officer ... of the United States, and, by virtue of his office ... becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States, knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both.

18 U.S. Code § 1924.

  • 2
    You should check the statutory definition of "officer".
    – user6726
    Jan 25, 2023 at 5:16
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure no statutory definition exists. Please send a link if I'm mistaken.
    – bdb484
    Jan 25, 2023 at 19:43
  • That comment is far less useful then it should be @user6726. If you have anything to add please be more direct. Jan 30, 2023 at 15:00

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