His Own Law: Trump Tore Up Records Turned Over to House Capitol Attack Committee

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National Archives says it received ripped-up documents from White House before turning them over to Congress

Donald Trump at a rally in Conroe, Texas on 29 January 2022.
Donald Trump at a rally in Conroe, Texas on 29 January 2022. Photograph: Brian Cahn/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Some of the White House records turned over to the House committee investigating the January 6 attack were ripped up by Donald Trump.

The documents include diaries, schedules, handwritten notes, speeches and remarks. The supreme court rejected Trump’s attempt to stop the National Archives turning them over to Congress.

In a statement, the Archives said: “Some of the Trump presidential records received by the National Archives and Records Administration included paper records that had been torn up by former president Trump.

“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 Presidential Records Act requires that all records created by presidents be turned over to the National Archives at the end of their administrations.”

The Archives did not say how it knew Trump had torn the records but his habit of tearing up documents has been widely reported.

In 2018, Politico spoke to Solomon Lartey, a records management analyst who spent time “armed with rolls of clear Scotch tape … sft[ing] through large piles of paper and put[ting] them back together … ‘like a jigsaw puzzle’.”

Lartey and another staffer who taped records were fired by the White House that year, they said summarily.

Lartey said: “They told [Trump] to stop doing it. He didn’t want to stop.”

After a process that reached the supreme court, the Archives gave more than 700 documents concerning the Capitol attack to the House committee last month.

More than 700 people have been charged over the riot, in which Trump supporters tried to stop certification of his election defeat. Eleven members of a far-right militia are charged with seditious conspiracy. More than 100 police officers were injured. Seven people died.

The committee has recommended criminal charges for two Trump associates, former White House strategist Steve Bannon and chief of staff Mark Meadows. Bannon refused co-operation and pleaded not guilty to contempt of Congress. Meadows co-operated, then withdrew. He has not been charged.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor, said destroying White House documents “could be a crime under several statutes that make it a crime to destroy government property if that was the intent of the defendant.

“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 did not comment. Nor did the House committee.

It was also reported on Tuesday that text messages were turned over to the committee by Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s last press secretary.

ABC News reported that McEnany appeared before investigators on 13 January.

It also said the texts were the source for conversations with the Fox News host Sean Hannity, which were quoted by the committee in a request for information from Ivanka Trump, the former president’s daughter and adviser.

“1 – no more stolen election talk,” Hannity texted McEnany after the Capitol attack.

Referring to possible attempts to remove Trump from power, he added: “2- Yes, impeachment and the 25th amendment are real and many people will quit.”

McEnany replied: “Love that. Thank you. That is the playbook. I will help reinforce.”

Trump was impeached but acquitted. The 25th amendment, which provides for the removal of a president incapable of fulfilling his or her duties, was not invoked. Trump continues to claim the election was stolen.

McEnany is now a Fox News host. She and her employer did not comment. One former Trump White House insider told the Guardian: “She’s an honest woman.”

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