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Lawsuits show that Donald Trump's companies regularly delete emails and other records

last president to meet with North Korea
Donald Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition, December 3, 2015. (Alex Wong/Getty)

Donald Trump’s team has blasted Hillary Clinton over the course of the presidential campaign for failing to meet their standards of transparency.

Trump has criticized Clinton for the private email server she set up as secretary of state. He has accused her of making secret back-room deals with government leaders. This week, Trump’s campaign is reviving this rehearsed attack amid a media frenzy over news that the FBI has discovered new emails that may be relevant to its Clinton investigation.

"We're for transparency, and honesty, and immediacy, and full disclosure, and we think it's comical that Hillary Clinton is now for that in the 11th hour," Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said during an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Monday.

Clinton’s record of transparency is certainly worthy of scrutiny, and WikiLeaks has given us plenty of fresh evidence to chew over. But if the histories of the candidates are any indicator, Trump hardly takes “transparency” and “full disclosure” seriously at all.

In fact, he’s directly flouted it throughout much of his personal and professional career. Throughout decades of facing criminal investigations and civil litigation, Trump has been accused of overseeing the deletion of company records, refusing to comply with prosecutors’ requests for documents, and wiping email servers — all of which make his calls for Clinton’s transparency tough to swallow.

Trump’s history of email deletion

The biggest charge Trump has leveled against Clinton’s record of transparency concerns her private email server and the 33,000 personal emails that were deleted after she left the state department.

Whatever you think of Clinton’s email server management, it’s worth thinking about how Trump himself handled his own email and document records after making transparency such a central part of his campaign. Some reporters, including Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald and Paul Singer at USA Today, have now documented an extensive trail of Trump’s dubious record of transparency when it comes to lawsuits against him:

  • In 1974, while being pursued by prosecutors for illegally discriminating against African Americans seeking homes, Trump admitted his company “had been destroying their corporate records for the previous six months and had no document-retention program,” according to Newsweek.
  • The Trump Organization didn’t keep years of records from its casino operations, according to USA Today. In 2006, Trump’s company told a judge that it had “no records” from 1996 to 2001 because of the routine erasure of emails. “I was a bit incredulous that an organization of that significance doesn’t do email,” Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld told USA Today. “I had heard a number of things in 24 years on the bench, but that stuck in my mind.”
  • Nikos Vroulis, the director of networks and systems for Trump’s casino operations, has testified that Trump’s casino company routinely destroyed emails and computers, according to USA Today. “Every year everything was just wiped out and deleted from pretty much everybody’s computers,” said Bob Pickus, general counsel of the casino unit at the time, according to USA Today.
  • In January 2005, Trump sued a casino by claiming his former co-worker had illegally conspired against him. The defendants asked Trump’s team to turn over records — if they could prove he had known about the deal before 2001, his case had no standing. Despite extensive discovery requests, all Trump’s team ultimately turned over was a small box of paper documents with no relevance to the lawsuit, according to Eichenwald. A follow-up review found everything on any Trump company servers before 2001 had been deleted. The judge in the case accused him of “double-talk.”
  • Beginning in 2003, Trump Hotels wiped “the data from everyone’s computers every year,” according to Eichenwald.

The overwhelming focus on the complicated minutia of Clinton’s server has created the impression that while Trump may have his outright sexism and a slew of sexual assault accusations, Clinton is much more secretive and willing to go to great lengths to keep her actions private. The narrative, in other words, is that both candidates have their own equal but different faults.

This is a joke. Forget Trump’s refusal to release his medical records, his unwillingness to explain his supposed charitable donations, or his unprecedented decision for a modern presidential nominee not to release his tax returns.

All you need to do is look at Trump’s extensive business career to see how seriously he takes transparency. You can have legitimate concerns about Clinton’s penchant for secrecy and still not think Trump would meet the high standards he’s setting for Clinton.

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