The public will not see Donald Trump’s White House records for years, but there is growing concern the collection will never be complete – leaving a hole in the history of one of America’s most tumultuous presidencies.
Trump has been cavalier about the law requiring that records be preserved. He has a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out, forcing White House workers to spend hours taping them back together.
White House staff quickly learned about Trump’s disregard for documents as they witnessed him tearing them up and discarding them. “My director came up to me and said, ‘You have to tape these together,’” said Solomon Lartey, a former White House records analyst.
The first document he taped back together was a letter from Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, about a government shutdown. “They told [Trump] to stop doing it. He didn’t want to stop.”
Lartey said the White House chief of staff’s office told the president that the documents were considered presidential records and needed to be preserved by law. About 10 records staff ended up on Scotch tape duty, starting with Trump’s first days in the White House through at least mid-2018.
The president also confiscated an interpreter’s notes after speaking with Vladimir Putin – a conversation where topics were suspected to have included Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Trump scolded his White House counsel for taking notes at a meeting during the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Top executive branch officials had to be reminded not to conduct official business on private email or text messaging systems, and to preserve it if they did.
Personally, I see future historians spending most of their time discussing Hillary’s choice of e-mail servers.