a hole in history?
January 16, 2021

You may have heard the tales of President Trump tearing up documents after reading them, leaving aides to try to glue them back together. Well, that flippant attitude toward recordkeeping has left historians frustrated, as Trump's papers begin their migration to the National Archives and Record Administrations, The Associated Press reports.

In addition to mishandling records, AP notes, Trump also showed a willingness to try to erase certain records, like when he confiscated an interpreter's notes after he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017, driving speculation that the two talked about Russia's 2016 election interference in some capacity. Per AP, Trump's staff also had to be reminded not to use private email or text messaging systems to conduct official business and, if they did, to take screen shots of the exchanges and copy them into official email accounts, which are preserved. Still, it's unclear how closely that was followed.

"It's an open question to me about how serious or conscientious any of these people have been about moving them over," Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, told AP.

The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations' Richard Immerman believes "historians are likely to suffer from far more holes than has been the norm" because of that potential gap. The situation could obviously be a problem for historians who rely on such records for their research, but Lee White, the director of the National Coalition for History, added that presidential records also "tell our nation's story from a unique perspective and are essential to an incoming administration in making informed decisions." Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

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