U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made headlines and attracted some partisan praise earlier this year when she ripped up a copy of President Donald Trump’s speech following a live broadcast of his State of the Union address.
Of course, many of her political rivals found the stunt petty and childish — and two GOP lawmakers are now claiming it might have been illegal, as they argued in a recent letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
“Violated her responsibility”
U.S. Reps. Gary Palmer (R-AL), the House policy committee chairman, and Mike Johnson (R-LA), called for an investigation in the letter sent on Tuesday, according to Fox News.
In a statement, Palmer called Pelosi’s behavior “more than disgraceful,” asserting that she “violated her responsibility to preserve official documents delivered to the House of Representatives.”
Citing one specific federal law prohibiting the concealment or destruction of “any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other thing, filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States,” the lawmakers reasoned that the speaker could be in violation.
Palmer went on to denounce Pelosi’s “scandalous outburst” as worthy of a Justice Department probe “not simply because it offended every American, but because it set a precedent for radical politicians to hijack state events for partisan performance art and possibly break the law with, thus far, no consequence.”
While their status as members of Congress certainly elevates the argument, Palmer and Johnson are not the first to raise such a possibility.
“Punishable by up to three years in prison”
Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative group Turning Point USA, tweeted a short time after the State of the Union speech that Pelosi’s reaction might have been technically illegal.
“Nancy Pelosi may have just committed a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2071, Section 2071 (a) when she ripped up President Trump’s State of the Union address,” he wrote. “This violation is punishable by up to three years in prison.”
Plenty of pundits agree with Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, however, who told Fox News that the claims are completely meritless.
“Her copy of the State of the Union address is not a government record or government property at all. It’s personal property,” said City University of New York School of Law professor Douglas Cox in a statement to PolitiFact.
Whether she will ever face charges remains to be seen, but the mere reemergence of this baldly political stunt might be enough to turn off some would-be Democratic voters ahead of Election Day.