Trump documents were torn up, taped together before reaching Jan. 6 committee

National Archives says docs Trump tried to block included "records that had been torn up by former President Trump"

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published February 1, 2022 1:50PM (EST)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Canyon Moon Ranch festival grounds on January 15, 2022 in Florence, Arizona.  (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Canyon Moon Ranch festival grounds on January 15, 2022 in Florence, Arizona. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Some of the Trump White House records turned over to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack had previously been torn up and then taped back together — perhaps by the ex-president himself — according to the National Archives.

"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," the agency said in a statement to CNN.

The agency did not say how it knew that Trump had personally torn up the documents, but the former president had a well-documented habit of tearing up records, flouting a federal law requiring they be preserved. Some of the documents were not taped back together before they were sent to the National Archives.

"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 Archives said in the statement. "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 cited a 2018 Politico report that an entire administration department had been tasked with taping up documents torn up by Trump "like a jigsaw puzzle" in order to prevent the White House from running afoul of the law. "White House aides realized early on that they were unable to stop Trump from ripping up paper after he was done with it and throwing it in the trash or on the floor. … Instead, they chose to clean it up for him, in order to make sure that the president wasn't violating the law," the outlet reported at the time.

RELATED: Jan. 6 committee says Mark Meadows' "hokey pokey" has slowed down plan for primetime hearings

Some legal experts argue that the practice itself violated the law.

There are "several statutes that make it a crime to destroy government property if that was the intent of the defendant," Stephen Gillers, a constitutional scholar at New York University, told the Washington Post. "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."

The committee began obtaining documents from the National Archives after the Supreme Court, including all three of Trump's nominees, rejected his bid to shield the documents. The agency handed over 700 pages of documents to the committee last month, according to the Post.

The documents included a draft executive order instructing the Pentagon to seize voting machines in key states to investigate unfounded claims of fraud. CNN later reported that a second version also exists, that would have instructed the Department of Homeland Security to seize the machines. The New York Times reported on Monday that Trump personally directed attorney Rudy Giuliani to call DHS to ask if the agency could legally seize the machines. Giuliani's request was ultimately rebuffed by acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli. Trump around the same tim raised the possibility of the Justice Department seizing the machines, which Attorney General Bill Barr "immediately shot down," according to the report. Trump similarly pressed Republican state lawmakers in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania to use local law enforcement to seize the machines but the lawmakers likewise refused to go along.

Along with efforts to seize voting machines, which was inspired by the conspiracy theories floated by Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn — and allegedly inspired by Phil Waldron, a former Army colonel who had no official standing in government — Giuliani was reportedly involved in efforts to submit fake slates of electors who would cast votes for Trump instead of President Joe Biden. The National Archives turned over forged documents from more than a half-dozen states falsely claiming that Trump won states that he lost. The committee has subpoenaed Giuliani and others involved in the effort, as well as 14 of the people who signed on as fake Trump electors.

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To this point, the House panel has interviewed more than 400 people as part of its investigation. It recently obtained text messages from former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, according to ABC News, and McEnany was interviewed virtually by the panel for "several hours" last month.

The committee recently cited a text message exchange between McEnany, who now works as a Fox News host, and longtime Fox host Sean Hannity.

"1 - no more stolen election talk," Hannity wrote, according to the committee. "2 - Yes, impeachment and the 25th amendment are real and many people will quit."

"Love that. Thank you. That is the playbook. I will help reinforce....," McEnany replied.

The panel last week also interviewed Marc Short, who served as former Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, according to CNN. Short was with Pence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and participated in a Jan. 4 White House meeting about Trump's efforts to block the certification of Biden's electoral victory. Short's interview was a "lengthy session," according to the report, and he also turned over documents that were subpoenaed by the committee. The committee has also sought to interview Pence,  but the former veep "would prefer aides like Short act as the former vice president's 'proxy' so Pence himself does not have to appear," sources told CNN. Multiple reports have said that Pence's team has been "particularly cooperative" with the committee, even as some former Trump advisers refuse to cooperate with the investigation.

The committee plans to host televised hearings beginning in April or May, as Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told Salon last week, after delays caused by the reluctance of former Trump advisers Mark Meadows and Steve Bannon, both of whom have declined to appear for interviews and have been referred to the Justice Department for contempt of Congress.

"It's only when you get right to that kind of bullseye core right around Donald Trump and his innermost confidants that people think they're somehow above the law and can just give the finger to the U.S. Congress," Raskin said in the interview, predicting that the upcoming hearings could be the "most important" in American history, "certainly up there with the Watergate hearings."

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By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregation Capitol Riot Donald Trump Jamie Raskin Jan. 6 Committee Mike Pence Politics