CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington—Following reports that President Trump has a habit of ripping up presidential documents including memos, letters, and notes, and that the White House fired the staffers who had been tasked with taping them back together, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and American Oversight called on the Trump Administration to fully comply with the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and preserve all presidential records.
According to recent reports, Trump regularly rips up papers once he is done with them, regardless of their status as presidential records. After realizing that the documents had to be preserved as presidential records, White House aides started collecting the fragments of paper from both the Oval Office and the personal residence to be taped together. According to Politico, the very staffers who were charged with restoring the documents were recently fired from the White House. In a letter to White House Counsel, CREW and American Oversight call the Trump Administration’s current practices a significant departure from accepted archival preservation that creates the possibility of law violations.
“It is deeply troubling that President Trump has been allowed to destroy important official documents, potentially violating the Presidential Records Act,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “Yet again, Trump is showing no regard for his responsibilities to the American people and is acting as if he is above the law. The administration must immediately implement clear records management practices to ensure the preservation of our nation’s history for future generations..”
The PRA was enacted to establish public ownership of presidential and vice presidential records, to impose record keeping requirements on the president and vice president, and to authorize the National Archives and Records Administration (“NARA”) to preserve and make publicly available presidential records.
“Trump’s practice of ripping up records isn’t just bizarre. It’s representative of the president’s complete failure to grasp what it means to be a public servant,” said John Bies, Chief Counsel at American Oversight. “Presidential records belong to the public and to future generations, and they are part of the nation’s collective history. The president’s counsel and staff need to put an immediate end to Trump’s paper-tearing habit before we lose any more irreplaceable historical records.”
Last year, CREW and the National Security Archive sued President Trump and the Executive Office of the President, alleging the White House’s use of confidential messaging applications and other problematic practices, including its destruction of the president’s tweets, violated the PRA.