Documents ripped up, stuffed down the toilet or carted off to Florida — the list of former US leader Donald Trump’s alleged flouting of laws on preserving presidential papers grew longer and more bizarre Thursday.
Trump’s shredding of many previously accepted norms of presidential decorum was part of his populist attraction to Republican supporters. But now the National Archives, which is in charge of preserving presidential records, reportedly wants Trump investigated over, among other things, his habit of literally tearing up White House papers while in office.
According to The Washington Post, the Archives requested the Justice Department open a probe into Trump’s practices.
This came after the government records office confirmed Monday that it had recovered 15 boxes of documents from Trump’s Florida estate, taken with him when he left Washington following his reelection defeat.
According to a report in The Washington Post on Thursday, citing anonymous sources, these documents included highly classified documents marked top secret and meant only for a small number of people with the necessary clearance.
Also reportedly in the pile of White House materials taken to the Mar-a-Lago complex was official correspondence with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un — “love letters,” as Trump described them at the time. Similarly included in the Florida stash was a letter outgoing president Barack Obama had left for Trump in the Oval Office.
Last week, the Archives confirmed reports that Trump had torn up documents, some of which have since been taped back together.
Under the 1978 Presidential Records Act (PRA), which was passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal, US presidents are required to transfer all emails, letters and other work documents to the National Archives.
Trump denies any wrongdoing. In a statement Thursday, he characterized his dealings with the Archives as “without conflict and on a very friendly basis.”
“The media’s characterization of my relationship with NARA (National Archives) is Fake News. It was exactly the opposite! It was a great honor to work with NARA to help formally preserve the Trump Legacy.”
Down the toilet
But on Thursday, a new twist developed.
A new book on Trump’s time in office claims that a White House toilet would jam after attempts to flush away office papers, Axios reported.
The upcoming book “Confidence Man,” by New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman, says that “staff in the White House residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet — and believed the president had flushed pieces of paper,” according to an exclusive preview by Axios.
The book, based in part on Haberman’s post-presidential interviews with Trump, reports that the Republican has told people he remains in touch with North Korea’s Kim.
Trump likewise denied the toilet story.
“Also, another fake story, that I flushed papers and documents down a White House toilet, is categorically untrue and simply made up by a reporter in order to get publicity for a mostly fictitious book,” he wrote.
Haberman’s book is set to be published October 4. The veteran Times journalist has been on the Trump beat for a decade and long had unrivaled access among journalists to the property tycoon-turned-politician’s inner circle.
The controversy is gaining traction in the Democratic-controlled Congress, where a special committee investigating the January 6, 2020 assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters is struggling to obtain the ex-president’s records.
On Thursday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in Congress announced it was opening its own investigation into the wandering records.
“I am deeply concerned,” committee chairwoman, Representative Carolyn Maloney, said. “I am also concerned by recent reports that while in office, President Trump repeatedly attempted to destroy presidential records, which could constitute additional serious violations.”