We already knew former President Donald Trump had a thing for ripping documents while he was in the White House. But now the Washington Post reveals that the practice, which often was in violation of the Presidential Records Act, was far more widespread than previously known.
Trump’s ripping of documents had recently taken center stage again amid the House select committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The committee received documents from the Trump White House that had been taped back together by National Archives staff. Turns out that was quite a common practice and the White House staff even implemented a protocol that would involve aides going in behind Trump to grab all the ripped-up paper he left behind. Staffers from the White House Office of Records Management would then be tasked with taping the documents back together. “He didn’t want a record of anything,” a former senior Trump official said. “He never stopped ripping things up.”
Trump kept ripping documents even after he was warned by at least two chiefs of staff and the White House counsel of the importance of preserving records. Although it’s unclear how many records were lost or destroyed, it’s likely that “hundreds of documents, if not more” were torn up, reports the Post. It wasn’t just Trump either. One senior official tells the Post that it was often White House staffers who unilaterally decided what should be destroyed and placed in “burn bags.”
Some aides described the ripping as more of a habit that he continued from his time as a businessman rather than a deliberate effort to make sure certain things didn’t make it into the public record. “When something irritated him, he would tear the document,” Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, said. “The physical act of ripping the paper for Donald was cathartic, and it provided him a relief, as if the issue was no longer relevant.” Even if records were lost, it seems highly unlikely Trump would face any consequences.