Nixon was forced to resign because he kept good records. The most damaging of those were what became known as "the White House tapes" , which included one called "the smoking gun".
So, mindful of that, Trump is trying to destroy as many records as he can before he leaves office.
The public will not see Donald Trump’s White House records for years, but there is growing concern the collection will never be complete – leaving a hole in the history of one of America’s most tumultuous presidencies.
Trump has been cavalier about the law requiring that records be preserved. He has a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out, forcing White House workers to spend hours taping them back together.
White House staff quickly learned about Trump’s disregard for documents as they witnessed him tearing them up and discarding them. “My director came up to me and said, ‘You have to tape these together,’” said Solomon Lartey, a former White House records analyst.
The first document he taped back together was a letter from Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, about a government shutdown. “They told [Trump] to stop doing it. He didn’t want to stop.”
Lartey said the White House chief of staff’s office told the president that the documents were considered presidential records and needed to be preserved by law. About 10 records staff ended up on Scotch tape duty, starting with Trump’s first days in the White House through at least mid-2018.
The president also confiscated an interpreter’s notes after speaking with Vladimir Putin – a conversation where topics were suspected to have included Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Trump scolded his White House counsel for taking notes at a meeting during the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Top executive branch officials had to be reminded not to conduct official business on private email or text messaging systems, and to preserve it if they did.
In the Trump White House “not only has record-keeping not been a priority, but we have multiple examples of it seeking to conceal or destroy that record”, said Richard Immerman, from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.
And now Trump’s baseless claim of widespread voter fraud – which postponed for weeks an acknowledgement of Joe Biden’s presidential victory – has delayed the transfer of documents to the National Archives and Records Administration, further heightening concern about the integrity of the records.
Presidential records were considered a president’s personal property until 1978, when Congress passed the Presidential Records Act over worry that Richard Nixon would destroy Watergate-related White House tape recordings that led to his resignation.
After that, presidential records were considered property of the American people – if they are preserved. Lawmakers have introduced legislation to require audits of White House record-keeping and compliance with the law.
“The American public should not have to wait until a president has left office to learn of problems with that president’s record-keeping practices,” Weismann said.