Speed Reads

on the record

Is the Jan. 6 investigation 'the most difficult challenge' to ever face the National Archives?

The otherwise under-the-radar National Archives and Records Administration has been thrust into the spotlight as of late, amid the ongoing investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, as well as a newfound scandal involving mishandled White House records and former President Donald Trump, writes The Hill.

So how is the agency faring under both its newfound notoriety as well as the influx of high-profile work?

"I think it's the most difficult challenge the National Archives has ever had," John Carlin, who worked as the eighth archivist of the United States, told The Hill. "In terms of what potentially could have gone wrong, what could potentially have really damaged the Archives and their image with the public as well as Washington, D.C." 

Carlin, who actually led efforts to preserve tapes from the Nixon White House during his Archives tenure, said he's been "pleasantly surprised by the Archives' ability to navigate the document requests from the Jan. 6 committee, pointing to the lack of public complaints from lawmakers as evidence the Archives staff have done a good job under difficult circumstances," The Hill writes.

At first, Carlin thought, "Oh gosh, they don't have the staff to do it," he said.

The Jan. 6 committee's "sweeping" initial request sought "documents, communications, calendars, schedules, movement logs, videos, photographs, visitor logs and telephone records related to Jan. 6 and efforts to challenge the 2020 election results," The Hill writes. 

Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters that NARA had "added about 20 employees to help with our committee's request, just given the nature of what we're looking for."

That said, another former archivist noted that such massive requests could mean pulling staffers from other divisions of the Archives to help out. That swapping could hurt other operations in the end.

"Those units that have had to 'loan' people to the project, they're stuck," said Trudy Huskamp Peterson. "It trickles down."