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Donald Trump’s staff have spent hours taping together confidential records that he tore up

According to new reports, Donald Trump had a habit of tearing up and throwing away confidential documents which are legally required to be preserved.

Thanks to his mishandling of records, staff and historians have been required to physically tape together confidential documents that had been destroyed by former President Trump.

As per federal legislation, Presidents are legally required to manage their administration’s records, all of which will be released to the public following a five-year holding period in the National Archives. It is no surprise that Trump had a problem with this very simple rule.

donald trump documents
Photo: The Guardian

According to reports, Trump was responsible for recklessly handling deleted social media content, meeting transcripts, and emails, prohibiting the material from being catalogued online. In addition to this, members of staff have accused the former President of actively destroying documentation by tearing it up, hence the sticky taping fiasco.

In an interview with Politico, former White House records analyst Soloman Lartey recalled a letter that he had to piece back together from Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Leader of the Senate, who urged Trump to stop carrying out the government shutdown.

The President not only destroyed documents but he also confiscated interpreter’s notes from a conversation between himself and Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The notes were suspected to include discussions regarding Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

donald trump, putin
Photograph: Brendan Smialowski, AFP, Getty Images

He was also reported to have actively scolded White House counsel for taking notes, encouraging business to be conducted through personal emails or encrypted text messages via WhatsApp.

The historical gap will inevitably delay the gathering of evidence for the many lawsuits awaiting Trump after his Presidency ends. Lee White, Director of the National Coalition for History, mentions: “Presidential records tell our nation’s story from a unique perspective and are essential to an incoming administration in making informed decisions.” 

At the conclusion of former President Barack Obama’s term, the National Archives were left with approximately 30 million pages of paper documents and 250 terabytes of electronic records (equivalent to 1.5 billion pages of emails).

According to David Tatel, courts cannot “micromanage the president’s day-to-day compliance.” This allowed for archival material to be regulated by Trump, so as to avoid any potential leaks.

When Trump lost the election in November, staff were required to transfer electronic records by January 20, as the law states. However, due to Trump’s reluctance to concede and a subsequent delay in funding, the process won’t be completed in time for Joe Biden’s inauguration. This means that the traditional handover of documentation won’t occur until after the President-elect has begun his time in office.

Anne Weisman, a lawyer representing the National Security Archive’s lawsuit against Trump, made it clear that the former President cared more about the archives concealing his criminal responsibility rather than the consequences of destroying evidence, as per the Presidential Records Act (1978).

As there’s only so much tape to put destroyed papers back together, it is undeniable that Trump’s actions will leave a gaping hole in historical archives.

Let’s hope that Biden can learn from Trump’s mistakes without the papers to prove it. It shouldn’t be too hard.