Photos were published this week potentially showing the remnants of paper documents that then-President Donald Trump ripped up and sought to flush down a toilet, although who put the document pieces there wasn’t conclusively confirmed.
Besides the ridiculous nature of the behavior, it could also be illegal because of components of federal law mandating the preservation and eventual transfer to federal record-keeping authorities of wide swathes of an administration’s records. The images were published in Axios after Maggie Haberman, a reporter with The New York Times who spoke about the document-flushing in an upcoming book about Trump, obtained them. One image purportedly shows a toilet in the White House, while another apparently shows a scene from an unspecified overseas trip, according to available info. The pieces of paper visible in the images carry handwriting that looks like what’s known as Trump’s. The papers were also written on in Sharpie, which Trump is known to do.
Trump, of course, originally denied he sought to flush documents. However, these images depict a fairly clear example of what seems like the then-president’s own handwriting, making his denials even more difficult to consider credible. Haberman’s book is called Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, and it releases to the public in August. Haberman’s work features a long-running focus on Trump. Staff working the White House residence believed Trump was responsible for the remnants of documents they found in a toilet, which happened “multiple times” at the White House and on at least two trips outside the country, as Axios summarizes what Haberman learned.
“That Mr. Trump was discarding documents this way was not widely known within the West Wing, but some aides were aware of the habit, which he engaged in repeatedly,” Haberman said. “It was an extension of Trump’s term-long habit of ripping up documents that were supposed to be preserved under the Presidential Records Act.” Predictably, Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich mocked the revelations. “We know… there’s enough people willing to fabricate stories like this in order to impress the media class — a media class who is willing to run with anything, as long as [it’s] anti-Trump,” he said. There’s no evidence the story was fabricated. Trump’s treatment of documents that federal rules required be preserved already faced scrutiny: some of the records from Trump’s admin that the House panel investigating the Capitol riot got from the National Archives were taped back together. The flurry of Trump’s potential law-breaking doesn’t make individual examples of it less serious.