Former President Donald Trump shushes reporters

Then-President Donald Trump shushed journalists before signing legislation on June 5, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Watchdogs Demand DOJ Probe Into Trump's Destruction of Official Records

"The Department of Justice must act to investigate and to hold Trump accountable for his reckless behavior."

A pair of government watchdog organizations on Tuesday urged the Biden Justice Department to launch an investigation into former President Donald Trump's reported habit of tearing up briefings, schedules, memos, and other official records, a likely violation of federal law.

"There is no excuse for hiding important information from the public."

In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive noted that "throughout his term in office, President Trump and other White House officials demonstrated a serious disregard for their recordkeeping responsibilities under the Presidential Records Act."

"President Trump's actions," the groups wrote, "appear to violate 18 U.S.C. SS 1361, which makes it a crime to willfully injure or commit any depredation against United States property in excess of $1,000, and 18 U.S.C. SS 2017, which makes it a crime to willfully destroy or mutilate federal records."

The organizations pointed to recentWashington Postreports detailing Trump's "penchant" for ripping government documents and revealing that--throughout the former president's tenure--White House staffers "frequently put documents into 'burn bags' to be destroyed, rather than preserving them."

"The ripping was so relentless that Trump's team implemented protocols to try to ensure that he was abiding by the Presidential Records Act," the Post reported Saturday. "Typically, aides from either the Office of the Staff Secretary or the Oval Office Operations team would come in behind Trump to retrieve the piles of torn paper he left in his wake... Then, staffers from the White House Office of Records Management were generally responsible for jigsawing the documents back together, using clear tape."

One unnamed person familiar with the president's potentially unlawful habit told the Post that they "once saw Trump tear up a piece of paper and then slip it into the pocket of his suit jacket."

Last week, the newspaper reported that some of the Trump White House records recently handed over to the House panel investigating the January 6 insurrection had been torn up and reassembled with Scotch tape. Other official documents--15 boxes worth--had to be retrieved from Trump's private Mar-a-Lago residence, where they were improperly stored.

Noah Bookbinder, the president of CREW, said in a statement Tuesday that "Trump's repeated and apparently willful destruction of his presidential records threatens to deny the American people a full historical record of his presidency and an opportunity to hold him and his administration fully accountable for their actions while in power."

"There is no excuse for hiding important information from the public," said Bookbinder. "The Department of Justice must act to investigate and to hold Trump accountable for his reckless behavior."

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