Last week it was reported that when the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 finally got their hands on an avalanche of Trump-era White House documents — which Trump had tried and failed to block — a good number of them had been torn up and taped back together by poor staffers. Some weren’t even taped back together. Turns out the former president had a habit of ripping up documents — illegally, as it turns out. But now we’re learning that that habit was even worse than previously thought.
As per The Washington Post, over the course of his four-year one-term presidency, Trump did this all the time, tearing up “hundreds” of official documentation: briefings, schedules, articles, letters, memos, some of them sensitive. He’d rip them up and either throw them in the waste bin or toss them on the floor. Sometimes he’d leave the detritus on his desk.
He wasn’t just being a snob; he was breaking a law. Specifically he was breaking the Presidential Records Act, which dictates that any official White House documentation must be preserved in the National Archive. Trump was repeatedly admonished for this practice, but — Trump being Trump — he always ignored them, evidently figuring he was above the law.
That, of course, left it to others to clean up his mess:
The ripping was so relentless that Trump’s team implemented protocols to try to ensure that he was abiding by the Presidential Records Act. Typically, aides from either the Office of the Staff Secretary or the Oval Office Operations team would come in behind Trump to retrieve the piles of torn paper he left in his wake, according to one person familiar with the routine. Then, staffers from the White House Office of Records Management were generally responsible for jigsawing the documents back together, using clear tape.
Will trump face any penalties for this? Will he face any penalties for anything law he’s broken? Probably not. James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, says whoever wrote the law neglected to add a note about how exactly to punish someone who breaks it.
“It is against the law, but the problem is that the Presidential Records Act, as written, does not have any real enforcement mechanism,” Grossman told the Post. “It’s that sort of thing where there’s a law, but who has the authority to enforce the law, and the existing law is toothless.”
And so Teflon Don will probably get off scot-free, as he probably will for inciting a violent mob. Or maybe this will be the one that gets him, much like Al Capone getting busted for tax evasion. Then again, Trump wasn’t reprimanded for that one either.