Speaking to Politico, two former White House staffers who worked in records management say they and their colleagues were tasked with collecting and taping back together presidential papers so the documents can be archived and the White House can be in compliance with the law. President Trump has what could be called “an informal filing system” in which he routinely tears up any papers on his desk he is done with. This habit is in conflict with the Presidential Records Act, Politico reports.
Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails and papers that the president touches, sending them to the National Archives for safekeeping as historical records.
But 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, according to people familiar with the practice. Instead, they chose to clean it up for him, in order to make sure that the president wasn’t violating the law.
Solomon Lartey, a records management analyst with nearly 30 years of government service to his name, says that, as recently as this spring, staffers were collecting pieces of paper from the Oval Office and the residence and piecing them back together again so the documents can be preserved. He and a colleague from the records management, Reginald Young Jr., told Politico that they were shocked that they were being paid to piece together presidential documents when there were more important tasks to be done.
“We had to endure this under the Trump administration,” Young said. “I’m looking at my director, and saying, ‘Are you guys serious?’ We’re making more than $60,000 a year, we need to be doing far more important things than this. It felt like the lowest form of work you can take on without having to empty the trash cans.”
Lartey and Young appeared on CNN and demonstrated the task they had been expected to complete, explaining the size of paper pieces ranged from papers torn in half to tiny shreds of paper.
⊕ Under President Obama, presidential records were managed in a structured and regimented way with an eye for preserving presidential history.
⊕ Trump aids are ensuring legal compliance by being overly inclusive in what is included in the record. Anything that’s not purely personal is sent to records management so the White House is compliant with the law.
⊕ Both Lartey and Young were abruptly terminated from records management in March and April, respectively. They were contacted by Politico about what the two describe as unfair terminations. They both described the odd task they were expected to complete in the course of their employment.
⊕ The White House declined to comment about both the paper tearing habit of the president and about the terminations of Lartey and Young.
⊕ The records management team has been downsized, with many career employees being terminated.
Why It Matters
The tax payers are paying for government employees to spend their days taping together official papers the president tears up, although he has been asked not to do so. This is not a wise or responsible use of taxpayer monies. A president who shreds papers that by law must be preserved is something that should not be tolerated, regardless of party affiliation.