National Archives refers Trump's destruction of documents to the Justice Department
Donald Trump appears at briefing for Hurricane Dorian (Fox News/screen grab)

There has been much debate over penalties for former President Donald Trump for knowingly destroying documents and then taking official documents to take back to Mar-a-Lago. The statute lists, among the punishments, disqualification from office, which has been the key piece anti-Trump activists cling to.

The only way for that to be possible, however, is if the National Archives found the behavior to be so egregious that they referred it to the Justice Department. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that's exactly what happened.

"The referral from the National Archives came amid recent revelations that officials recovered 15 boxes of materials from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence that weren’t handed back in to the government as they should have been, and that Trump had turned over other White House records that had been torn up," said the report. "Archives officials suspected Trump had possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents — including those that might be considered classified — and reached out to the Justice Department, the people familiar with the matter said."

Reports about the behavior by the former president say that staffers repeatedly told Trump that he had to stop tearing up documents. Sometimes they were shredded into tiny confetti-like pieces, but most of the time, Trump ripped documents in half to illustrate that he was finished and wanted to move onto something else. It was a habit he picked up in business, and no matter what staff did, they couldn't break him of it. The White House was ultimately forced to dedicate staff paid by taxpayers to puzzle together the pieces. Some of the pieces came to the Archives without being taped back together.

The two people who revealed the news to the Post said that it's in the preliminary stages and the Justice Department hasn't indicated whether or not they'll investigate or indict.

Trump's aides are still looking for additional documents.

Read the full report at the Washington Post.

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