December 14, 2020
Now you see it; now you don’t: A recent revelation that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield had ordered staffers to delete incriminating emails has raised questions about what’s going on in other agencies —and in the Oval Office, itself—in the final weeks of the Trump Administration, Raw Story reports.
Redfield directed a staffer, who went public last week, to delete an email from one of President Donald Trump’s political appointees, who had advised the agency to change its coronavirus report to downplay the virus’s effect on children—and government watchdogs told Salon’s Dan Froomkin that the incident may just be the tip of the iceberg.
“Donald Trump has absolutely no credibility when it comes to preserving documents,” said Lisa Rosenberg, executive director of the pro-transparency group Open the Government. “He’s been doing this all along: He deletes tweets, even though they’re public policy, he rips up notes, when they’re even taken—he rips up notes and some of his folks have to go and literally tape them back together again.”
Rosenberg urged reporters to start digging into those efforts to destroy evidence instead of waiting for that misconduct to be revealed.
“Journalists can hold folks’ feet to the fire,” she said. “They can question people and they can remind people of what their duties are to preserve these records.”
Those official documents belong to the public and government officials are legally bound to preserve them.
“Destroying or stealing documents belonging to the United States government is a crime,” said Richard Painter, former ethics counsel to President George W. Bush. “Destroying or stealing documents to cover up another crime, or activity that may be under investigation, is also a crime. Lying about what happened to missing documents is yet another crime.”
Painter added, “A departing federal official may take personal property from the office but no more. That includes perhaps some family photos — and of course that red [MAGA] cap—but everything else stays where it is. Anyone who doesn’t understand that could end up staying with the government a lot longer than anticipated or desired.”
Research contact: @RawStory