It’s not news to anyone that inside the doors of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue lies pure chaos. Numerous White House staffers continue to resign or be fired by President Donald Trump, leading vacancies to pile up in spite of a campaign promise to hire "the best people in the world." The president's Office of Science and Technology Policy, for one, has been described as a "ghost town."
The inner workings of Trump's White House were exposed in great detail in Michael Wolff’s much-anticipated book, "Fire and Fury" in January, which claimed that the president is unafraid of firing any person who opposes him – and also relishes in creating a chaotic work environment.
Most recently, John Kelly, the president's chief, reportedly called the White House a “miserable place to work” as speculation circles about his departure from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. While the revolving door of staff members in the White House has become routine, and therefore normalized, it indicates a troubling aspect on the current state of American democracy.
The New York Times reports that President Trump does not seek council from varied political perspectives but often makes outside calls to two of his longest serving advisors – Corey Lewandowski, his disgraced first campaign manager, and his longtime friend David Bossie. Trump's reliance on outside advisors limits the traditional importance of the role of a president's chief of staff as close confidant.
Trump’s disregard for presidential etiquette and traditional protocol is dismantling the U.S. democratic system. The latest evidence to support this claim is a shocking new report highlighting the president's habit of tearing up official documents once he has finished reading them.
This ritual of ripping up important government documentation directly violates the Presidential Records Act. The Act requires the White House preserve all memos, letters, emails and papers that the president handles and send them to the National Archives.
Solomon Lartey worked in the Old Executive Office Building for the first five months of the Trump administration, and his entire department dedicated a significant amount of time to taping these documents back together, according to Politico. Reportedly, staffers collected fragments of paper from the Oval Office and the president's private residence, sending the paper to the records management office across the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for Lartey and his colleagues to reassemble.
One colleague, Reginald Young Jr., worked as a senior records management analyst and told Politico that, in two decades of government service, he had never been tasked with such a job. Similarly, Lartey had never witnessed such behavior before.
Unlike his predecessor, President Obama was meticulous about preserving documents for historical purposes. The process of filing and categorizing documents is a structured and detail-oriented process – one that is indicative of a president’s respect for the legacy of the White House. National and international decision-making of great historical importance often occurs in the Oval Office behind closed doors, and these records hold the government accountable and act as a measure of political transparency.
Lartey and Young were both “abruptly terminated” from their jobs this spring. According to both men, they were stripped of their badges and asked to leave the White House grounds by secret service officials without explanation.
If true, this firing method frequently used by the president only supports Kelly’s statement about the current climate inside the White House. Lartey and Young are just two of the people who have been fired from the team of staffers that tracked President Trump’s correspondences and official documents. That team is now significantly smaller in size, according to Politico.
With a continued revolving door at the White House, the systems in place that hold the president accountable are quickly diminishing.