Long before he became president, Donald Trump existed in a world where rules typically didn’t apply to him. Now that he occupies the Oval Office, President Trump is expected to adhere to the Presidential Records Act which designates all memos, emails, notes, and other written correspondence to be preserved as historical documents, but he just can’t seem to shake the habit of ripping up every document once he’s done with it. According to Politico, White House staffers are tasked with taping papers back together once the president rips them up and either throws them out or tosses the pieces on the floor. This is the same law that ostensibly prevents the president from deleting tweets as well.
Once Trump aides have gathered all the confetti he threw around the room, they reportedly send it over to a team of records management analysts to reassemble the shredded documents, and thus, shield the president from breaking the law. Former career government official Solomon Lartey, who served for 30 years under several presidents, described what it was like to have to reassemble the documents discarded by a 71-year-old man who refused to stop tearing them up. From Politico:
“We got Scotch tape, the clear kind,” Lartey recalled in an interview. “You found pieces and taped them back together and then you gave it back to the supervisor.” The restored papers would then be sent to the National Archives to be properly filed away.
Lartey said the papers he received included newspaper clips on which Trump had scribbled notes, or circled words; invitations; and letters from constituents or lawmakers on the Hill, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“I had a letter from Schumer — he tore it up,” he said. “It was the craziest thing ever. He ripped papers into tiny pieces.”
Lartey wasn’t the only records management analyst to complain about the absurdity and indignity of his job. From Politico:
One of his colleagues, Reginald Young Jr., who worked as a senior records management analyst, said that during over two decades of government service, he had never been asked to do such a thing.
“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.”
Aides have reportedly tried to get the president to break the habit of tearing up documents, but given all the shady business ventures he’s been involved in over the years, it’s easy to see how Trump picked up the inclination to avoid leaving a paper trail.
Lartey and Young claimed that they were ultimately rewarded for this indignity by being forced to sign resignation letters earlier this year without being given any indication as to why they were getting axed.
“I was stunned,” Lartey said. “I asked them, ‘Why can’t you all tell me something?’ I had gotten comfortable. I was going to retire. I would never have thought I would have gotten fired.”
“The only excuse that I’ve ever gotten from them,” Young said, “was that you serve at the pleasure of the president.”
Sounds like a great place to work.