In my post last night about charges that Donald Trump violated federal document retention requirements, I wrote: “For what it’s worth, [Omarosa] Manigault Newman says she once saw Trump tear up a note and eat it. That’s one way to stymie those pesky staffers.” By saying “for what it’s worth,” I indicated my skepticism about this claim.
My skepticism (which isn’t the same thing as outright disbelief) is based not just on questions about Manigault Newman’s reliability. It’s also based on Trump’s reputation as a germaphobe. Omarosa understood this problem with her account. She says she was surprised to see Trump swallow the note, given his germaphobia.
A good way to make documents disappear without eating them is to use the toilet. This method takes pesky White House staffers out of the loop without exposing the president to germs.
The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman says that staff at the White House residence would sometimes find the toilet clogged. The engineer called in to fix the toilet would discover wads of clumped up wet, printed paper. White House reporter Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg backs up this claim.
Apparently, it will be one of the revelations in Haberman’s upcoming book on the Trump presidency.
As with Omarosa, I’m skeptical of any anti-Trump assertions by Haberman. (I’m not familiar with Jacobs’ work.) On the other hand, I wouldn’t put it past Trump to destroy documents in the way she describes.
Former White House chief of staff John Kelly might have felt the same way. According to the New York Times, he tried to stop classified documents from being taken to the residence because he was concerned about what Trump might do with them and how it might jeopardize national security.
As for clogged toilets, Haberman’s reporting can, in theory, be confirmed or dismissed based on what members of White House residence staff and/or the engineer who fixed the toilet say. Even if confirmed, this would leave open, in theory, the question of who flushed the documents down the toilet and the question of whether the documents were classified.
Even if they weren’t classified, Trump was barred from destroying them. Every document he touches as president must be retained. However, it would still be worth knowing whether or not the material was classified. The answer, I imagine, would have legal implications.
The Archives has asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of presidential records. If the DOJ decides to investigate, there will be no shortage of questions to explore.