Donald Trump not only tore up records demanded by the House select committee probing the Jan. 6 insurrection, he also ripped up lots of other letters, memos, articles, briefings and schedules — in violation of the Presidential Records Act, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
He kept it up throughout his presidency, despite being warned to preserve all the documents — as required by law — by the White House counsel, two chiefs of staff, and others, according to the Post.
“It is absolutely a violation of the act,” Courtney Chartier, president of the Society of American Archivists, told the Post. “There is no ignorance of these laws. There are White House manuals about the maintenance of these records.”
The law demands that the White House preserve all written communication related to a president’s official duties — including everything from memos to emails — and turn it all over to the National Archives and Records Administration.
Some documents provided last month to the Jan. 6 House committee had been ripped up and were taped back together by the National Archives, the Post and CNN reported last week. A statement from the National Archives noted that they had been “torn up by former President Trump.”
The practice was “relentless,” “widespread and indiscriminate,” the Post reported further on Saturday, citing interviews with 11 Trump White House staffers, associates and others. One source said staff in the National Archives considered it “unprecedented.”
“He didn’t want a record of anything,” a former senior Trump official told the Post. “He never stopped ripping things up. Do you really think Trump is going to care about the Records Act? Come on.”
Frequently, aides and other staffers would scoop up the shredded paper left by Trump to save so documents could be reconstructed before they disappeared into the trash or vanished elsewhere.
But one senior official told the Post that he and other White House staffers frequently decided themselves which documents should be put into “burn bags” to be destroyed and which should be preserved. Records personnel would often have to check the contents of these bags to determine which torn documents in them needed to be saved. At least one witness reported seeing Trump slip a piece of paper into his suit pocket.
Hundreds of documents were ripped up, sources told the Post. No one knows how many documents were permanently lost or destroyed.