Experts doubt that the President will be able to punish the speaker of the House of Representatives for her tactless actions.
President Donald Trump said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi violated the law by tearing up a copy of the speech the head of state addressed to Congress last Tuesday.
The President, speaking to reporters on Friday, said that Pelosi’s actions in ripping up the text of trump’s speech in front of a multi-million audience was “an act of disrespect for our country, in fact, very illegal.”
Republican Congressman Matt Getz filed a complaint against Pelosi’s actions, accusing the speaker of possibly violating Federal law (US Code 18 § 207). Current law prohibits the destruction of government documents “that have been filed or deposited with any employee of any US court.”
“This applies to the storage of official documents, for example, copies of papers that are deposited in the National archives,” explains Ajay Mehrotra, Executive Director and research fellow of the American lawyer Foundation. “I don’t think Pelosi had an official document in his hands.”
According to Pelosi, Trump “tore up the truth in his speech, tore up the Constitution with his behavior. I broke the appeal.”
The moment when the speaker defiantly tore up the papers with the President’s speech, which instantly spread to dozens of “memes,” was a “brilliant political theater,” and not a violation of the law, Mehrotra believes.
However, other experts believe differently, pointing out that the destruction of even an unregistered copy of the President’s address may technically be an offense.
“I think this is a natural question,” Aaron Coleman, associate Professor and Head of the Department of history and political science at Cumberland University in Kentucky. “I don’t think that will be a problem when it comes to legality.” It’s hard to imagine, given the seriousness of other issues, that the President and Congress would want to spend taxpayer money on this.”
However, if we leave aside the legality of Pelosi’s actions, then, according to the Professor, the speaker acted “incredibly tactless and rude”.