When you work for the President of the United States, particularly in the digital age, you expect to use “cut and paste” a lot. Writing a speech, drafting a letter, summarizing complex briefing materials, or just compiling a list of Breitbart News articles applauding his greatness, it’s probably one of the most frequent tasks White House staffers perform.
That, however, is not the kind of cutting and pasting senior staffers were asked to do for this president.
President Trump, you see, has a peculiar habit of tearing up papers after he’s read them. Some documents he just rips in half right down the middle. Others he tears multiple times into dozens of small pieces – one of the advantages of having small hands, I suppose.
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We’re not talking about concert tickets or meeting agendas, papers that are hastily printed out and then aren’t needed once their purpose has been served. The president does this with important, often historic documents, like letters from Congress or communiques form his state department.
“I had a letter from Schumer — he tore it up,” White House Staffer Soloman Lartey told Politico Sunday. “It was the craziest thing ever. He ripped papers into tiny pieces.”
While all of this may seem harmlessly humorous – and infinitely infantile – it poses a serious problem. “Under the Presidential Records Act,” Annie Karni writes in Politico, “the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails and papers that the president touches, sending them to the National Archives for safekeeping as historical records.”
Someone, therefore, has to put these ripped-up documents back together before they’re sent to the National Archives. And so staffers like Lartey, who earn a salary of over $60,000 a year, are tasked with taking rolls and rolls of clear scotch tape – and a mountain of patience – to literally tape often hundreds of scraps of paper back into the documents they were before the president ripped them up.
Reginald Young, Jr., another longtime White House staffer, confirmed Lartey’s account. “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.”
These aren’t lowly 20-something interns spending a summer in D.C. trying to pad their résumés. Young is 48 years old, and Lartey had over 25 years experience in government before Trump took office. They were both unceremoniously fired from the White House without any explanation, caught up in one of the many controversial purges Trump has initiated since taking office.
They were forced to sign letters of resignations and given no explanation for their firing, but a blind man can see why they had to go. They committed the unforgivable crime of previously working for another president.
The current occupant of the White House has little tolerance for this because he knows that anyone who’s seen how a respectable, efficient presidency is run from the inside would be embarrassed to work for the catastrophe that is the Trump presidency.