Donald Trump reportedly tore up multiple documents related to the investigation into the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection, and staff at the National Archives had to put them back together again with tape.
In a statement, the National Archives said that January 6 documents that were turned over to investigators “included paper records that had been torn up by former President Trump.”
“White House records management officials during the Trump Administration recovered and taped together some of the torn-up records,” the Archives’ statement said about some of the over 700 documents it gave to the House committee investigating the attempt to violently overturn the 2020 elections.
The Archives added that they received some papers that were torn up and taped back together, while others were still torn up and they had to put them back together.
“These were turned over to the National Archives at the end of the Trump Administration, along with a number of torn-up records that had not been reconstructed by the White House,” the statement said. “The Presidential Records Act requires that all records created by presidents be turned over to the National Archives at the end of their administrations.”
“Destroying them could be a crime under several statutes that make it a crime to destroy government property if that was the intent of the defendant,” New York University law professor Stephen Gillers told the Washington Post. “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.”
Trump reportedly had a habit of tearing up official documents while in the White House, a habit that potentially violated federal laws around official record-keeping.
In 2018, federal records management analyst Solomon Lartey said that he and his coworkers would carry rolls of Scotch tape to put together torn documents “like a jigsaw puzzle.” He said some of the documents were torn so small they were like confetti.
The work to put them all back together, though, was required by federal law.