Fact Check: It’s Not Illegal To Rip Copies Of Trump’s State Of The Union Speeches
It’s been five days since Trump’s State of the Union address, and many fact-checking websites have found that many of the claims the president made during it were misleading or flat-out false.
But a claim by President Donald Trump, regarding what happened at the end of the speech, is also worth examining.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tore up the copy of Trump’s speech that was given to her at the conclusion of the event. Many pundits and conservative lawmakers derided her for doing so, saying it was a disrespectful action, while progressives cheered her on.
Pelosi herself explained her decision to tear the speech to shreds, explaining that the lies told within it warranted her action.
“I started to think there has to be something that clearly indicates to the American people that this is not the truth and he has shredded the truth in his speech, shredding the Constitution in his comments, [so] I shredded the address,” she said, per reporting from the New York Post.
Later in the week, Trump claimed that Pelosi’s actions weren’t just disrespectful, but also illegal, according to a report from VozWire.
“I thought it was a terrible thing when she ripped up the speech,” Trump said on Friday. “First of all, it’s an official document. You’re not allowed. It’s illegal what she did. She broke the law…I thought it was terrible, I thought it was very disrespectful to the chamber, to the country.”
President Trump: "I thought it was a terrible thing when she ripped up the speech. First of all, it's an official document. You're not allowed. It's illegal what she did. She broke the law." pic.twitter.com/Co1j7ljpGU
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 7, 2020
Trump’s words go beyond the critical, and venture into accusing Pelosi of committing a criminal act. But is there any veracity to the president’s claims?
Hardly. Trump handed Pelosi a copy of his speech. The original version of his State of the Union address is submitted to the National Archives for preservation. Had that copy of Trump’s speech been destroyed, it would have been a crime — but ripping up a copy of his speech isn’t criminal.
The Presidential Records Act requires the executive branch to preserve all records and statements made by the president, USA Today reported, but it doesn’t make it illegal to destroy copies of those records.
In short, Trump is misrepresenting the law regarding preserving his statements. Pelosi was handed a copy of Trump’s speech, which she ripped up at the end of his State of the Union address. That may be disrespectful, in some people’s eyes, but it’s most certainly not illegal.