Trump claims Pelosi ripping speech was ‘illegal’
President Trump claimed Friday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) committed a crime by ripping up a copy of his speech at the State of the Union on Tuesday evening, a claim that was immediately disputed as false by legal experts. “I thought it was a terrible thing,” Trump told reporters at the White House before departing for a speech in North Carolina. “It’s illegal what she did. She broke the law.” Trump asserted that Pelosi was barred from ripping up the speech because it is an official document, later calling it “very illegal.”
Glenn Kirschner, a legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, disputed Trump’s claim, telling The Hill that a photocopy of a speech is not an official record.
“The federal law prohibiting the destruction of public records or government documents does not apply,” Kirschner said in a text message.
“No prosecutor with half an ounce of common sense would ever charge this case,” said Elie Honig, another legal analyst. “The law isn’t meant to criminalize destruction of copies of ceremonial documents.”
Trump on Friday also described Pelosi’s action as “very disrespectful to the chamber, to the country.”
Pelosi has said she tore up the speech in order to protest the “falsehoods” contained in the president’s State of the Union address and that she felt “very vindicated” by doing so.
The president’s remarks on Friday were his first public reaction to Pelosi’s ripping of his speech at the conclusion of his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.
The president told reporters Friday that he didn’t know Pelosi ripped the copy of his speech until members of Congress remarked about it as he left the chamber.
White House aides have repeatedly criticized Pelosi for the move in recent days, though none have suggested her actions were illegal. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News on Wednesday that she believed Pelosi should be censured.
“I think it shows you how petty and peevish and partisan the Democratic Party has come,” Conway said on Fox News. “And for all the people out there who fancy themselves the armchair psychiatrist trying to analyze certain people, they ought to shift their craft over to Nancy Pelosi.”
Trump has regularly attacked Pelosi over his impeachment by House, but their relationship plummeted to a new low this week following the State of the Union and the president’s acquittal in the impeachment trial by the GOP-controlled Senate.
When Trump entered the House chamber before his remarks, Trump also appeared to snub Pelosi, not taking her hand as she reached out to shake his as is customary at the beginning of the president’s joint address to Congress.
During two separate appearances on Thursday — including one at the National Prayer Breakfast when the House Speaker was sitting just feet away — Trump took a shot at Pelosi for invoking religion during his impeachment.
“Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person. And she wanted to impeach a long time ago,” Trump said during remarks from the East Room Thursday afternoon, disputing Pelosi’s claim that she prays for him. “She may pray, but she prays for the opposite. But I doubt she prays at all.”
The assertion is rich given Trump’s well-documented penchant for ripping papers into tiny pieces after he’s done reading them. Politico reported in 2018 that White House aides could not convince the President to break his paper-ripping habit, so it became the job of career staffers in the records management office to tape official documents he’s torn into bits back together.
This all came from a tweet from conservative bullshit artist Charlie Kirk.
According to a fact check from the Tampa Bay Times:
The statute in question deals with the “concealment, removal, or mutilation generally” of records and reports. It sets a penalty for anyone who “conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys” any government record “filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States.”
The statute also says that any person with “custody” of a government record cannot “willfully and unlawfully” conceal, remove, mutilate, obliterate, falsify or destroy it.
“The point of the statute is to prevent people from destroying records in official repositories like the National Archives or in courts,” said Georgetown Law professor Victoria Nourse.
Pelosi is in the clear, experts said, because her copy of Trump’s speech wasn’t a government record.