The American government is ruled by a series of regulations designed to create transparency to the public, but those rules are no match for President Donald Trump.
Politico reported Sunday that the White House has been tasked with taping papers back together after the president ripped them apart. Document preservation laws mandate that the White House keep schedules, memos, speeches, public digital communications and more. Since the transition the National Archives staff have frequently reminded the White House to follow the Presidential Records Act, but Trump’s staff has been “haphazard” in document preservation.
That’s where Solomon Lartey comes in. The records management analyst has spent hours tediously attempting to piece together pages ripped apart by the commander in chief. Spending his days piecing together the world’s most important government transparency “jigsaw puzzle,” scores the staffer just a little over $65,000 annually.
Sometimes his job is easy. Papers torn in half or quarters make for a simple day in the office. Others, however, “would be torn into pieces so small they looked like confetti.”
While the Republican leader campaigned on the importance of transparency, his administration and cabinet appointees have taken a different approach. For president himself, old habits die hard. His “process” is an “unofficial filing system” in which he rips papers to pieces when he’s finished with them. Sometimes they make it into the trash, others they are strewn about in the Oval Office.
Rather than trying to teach an old dog new tricks, the staff decided simply to clean up after him.
“We got Scotch tape, the clear kind,” Lartey told Politico in an interview. “You found pieces and taped them back together and then you gave it back to the supervisor.”
Papers would then be sent to the National Archives where they would be filed.
“I had a letter from Schumer — he tore it up,” he said. “It was the craziest thing ever. He ripped papers into tiny pieces.”
He noted that the “entire department” was needed to accomplish the task of taping the documents when Trump first came into office. After two decades in government service, Reginald Young, Jr., a former senior records management analyst, explained he’s never experienced the demand in his career.
“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.”
Hundreds of years from now, the Trump presidency’s documents will stand with other presidents’. His will be wrinkled, torn, ripped or pieced back together and held with tape. Trump pledged to cut government spending and “red tape.” There was no word on Scotch tape, however.