Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Trump Illegally Took At Least 15 Boxes Of White House Documents – And Destroyed Or Burned Hundreds Of Other Official Documents – Yet Another Federal Crime That Should (Without Question) Send Him To Prison And Bar Him From Holding Public Office Again

Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.

Donald Trump has clearly violated yet another federal law (the Presidential Records Act) by illegally taking at least 15 boxes of White House documents that lawfully should have been turned over to the National Archives and bringing them to his Florida home. There are reports that Trump also stole various pieces of White House furniture.

Trump and his White House aides broke the law repeatedly by destroying hundreds of official documents during his four years in office, either by shredding them or placing them in "burn bags" that were then incinerated. One person at the National Archives said the amount of destruction was "unprecedented". Among the documents were notes to Trump from North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un, which Trump described as "love letters".

Numerous documents provided by the National Archives to the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 seditious insurrection had to be taped back together. Others may have been deliberately destroyed and no longer exist.

According to 18 U.S. Code § 2071, "destruction of government records or attempts to destroy such records" can lead to a fine and/or a jail sentence. A person "having the custody" of the document that has been destroyed (or stolen and taken home, presumably) "shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States".

Trump was instructed repeatedly for four years (by, among other people, two chiefs of staff (Reince Priebus and John F. Kelly) and two White House lawyers (Donald McGahn and Stefan Passantino)) to follow the law.

"He never stopped ripping things up," a former senior official told the Washington Post. "He didn't want a record of anything." Trump believed he was above the law (and the Department of Justice's foot-dragging on charging Trump with any number of obvious crimes both boggles the mind and vindicates Trump's belief in his superiority re the law). Dolt 45 also has been in the decades-long habit of destroying evidence of his myriad crimes. 

McGahn said Trump would "rip up everything". Depending on which documents were ripped or burned, Trump could potentially face obstruction of justice charges.

The New York Times continued its years-long cozy cuddle of Trump by burying what under normal circumstances would be jaw-dropping news on page A12, implying Trump had simply made an honest mistake, as his aides were "preoccupied" during a "hasty exit" from the White House. "Hasty"? Team Trump had 73 days (from November 7, when Trump was declared the loser to the day before Biden's inauguration) to pack up its shit before being evicted. As Press Run's Eric Boehlert tweeted "imagine covering Trump for five yrs and thinking, 'yeah it was probably honest mistake'". . . . JFC.

The Post interviewed "11 former Trump staffers, associates and others familiar with the habit" to report on Trump's illegal and "relentless" shredding of papers was "a problematic practice" and "far more widespread and indiscriminate than previously known". Trump's staff came up with "special practices to deal with the torn fragments".

Politico reported back in 2018 that Trump would often tear papers into shreds and throw them on the floor. The pieces were sometimes as small as confetti. Aides from the Office of the Staff Secretary or the Oval Office Operations team would follow along in Trump's wake, grabbing the pieces of torn paper Trump had left behind.

I don't think you have to be Sigmund Freud to see that forcing White House aides to crawl around on the floor and pick up tiny pieces of paper was one way Trump made himself feel important.

"It is absolutely a violation of the act," said Courtney Chartier, president of the Society of American Archivists. "There is no ignorance of these laws. There are White House manuals about the maintenance of these records."

Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor and constitutional scholar, said White House documents are government property under the Presidential Records Act.
[D]estroying them could be a crime under several statutes that make it a crime to destroy government property . . . A president does not own the records generated by his own administration. The definition of presidential records is broad. Trump's own notes to himself could qualify and destroying them could be the criminal destruction of government property.
One person familiar with the National Archives process said that staff there were stunned at how many papers they received from the Trump administration that were ripped, and described it internally as "unprecedented."

One senior Trump White House official said he and other White House staffers frequently put documents into "burn bags" to be destroyed, rather than preserving them, and would decide themselves what should be saved and what should be burned. When the Jan. 6 committee asked for certain documents related to Trump's efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence, for example, some of them no longer existed in this person's files because they had already been shredded, said someone familiar with the request. . . .

[T]orn documents were [also] found in classified burn bags, which are used to dispose of documents, according to one former Trump White House official. Records personnel would routinely dump the contents of burn bags on a table and try to puzzle out which of the torn documents needed to be taped together and preserved, the former official said. . . .

Trump's chaotic approach to handling physical documents leaves gaping holes in the historical record, not to mention being disrespectful to the archivists and general public.

"We don't know how much of it was or was not successfully taped back together," [James] Grossman [executive director of the American Historical Association] said. "Also, how much did the taxpayers pay to have a bunch of highly qualified archivists sit at a desk and tape things back together?"

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