Gaetz filing ethics complaint against Pelosi for 'destroying' Trump speech

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzTrump signs order targeting social media firms' legal protections Trump to order review of law protecting social media firms after Twitter spat: report On The Money: US tops 100,000 coronavirus deaths with no end in sight | How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response | Tenants fear mass evictions MORE (R-Fla.) announced that he is filing an ethics complaint against Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers MORE (D-Calif.) for “destroying” a copy of President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America MORE’s speech after his State of the Union address.

“BREAKING: I'm filing an ethics complaint against @SpeakerPelosi for destroying @realDonaldTrump's State of the Union speech,” Gaetz tweeted late Wednesday. “Her conduct was beneath the dignity of the House, and a potential violation of law (18 USC 2071).”

“Nobody is above the law. She must be held accountable,” he added. 

Gaetz also included two screenshots of the complaint he sent to House Ethics Committee Chairman Theodore Deutch (D-Fla.) and Rep. Kenny MarchantKenny Ewell MarchantMinority caucuses endorse Texas Afro-Latina for Congress Latina underdog for Texas House seat picks up steam Texas kicks off critical battle for House control MORE (R-Texas), the ranking member on the committee.

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In the complaint, Gaetz calls on the committee to open an investigation into what he described as “flagrant violation of decorum” committed by Pelosi when she ripped up a copy of the president’s prepared speech at the end of his third State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“It is hard to overlook the symbolism of such a gesture — the sense that Speaker Pelosi was utterly dismissive of the President’s achievements, and, more importantly, the achievements of the American people,” Gaetz wrote. 

Gaetz said Pelosi’s gesture was “deeply" offensive and appeared to violate the House’s Code of Official Conduct on decorum as well as a statute that prohibits the destruction, mutilation or removal of federal records “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.”

In the complaint, Gaetz requested a criminal referral for the “potential violation” and said the Speaker’s “unseemly behavior certainly warrants censure.”

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“The Speaker should not let her personal feelings about the President color her behavior as a leader in the United States Congress,” he also wrote, “but last night, her actions have brought discredit on the entire House.”

Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, fired back at Gaetz in a statement to The Hill on Thursday morning, calling the complaint a “frivolous stunt.”

Gaetz had also appeared on “The Ingraham Angle” to discuss his decision to file a complaint against Pelosi, saying: “She disgraced the House of Representatives, she embarrassed our country and she destroyed official records.”

However, Ingraham, a former Supreme Court law clerk, pushed back on that notion.

“Well, it’s not really a formal record because it’s a copy of the speech that the president signed. … This is cute, but it’s not going to work,” she said.

The complaint was also met with pushback from some experts.

"The point of the statute is to prevent people from destroying records in official repositories like the National Archives or in courts," Georgetown Law professor Victoria Nourse told Politifact.

Douglas Cox, who teaches at the City of New York University School of Law, told the outlet that Pelosi’s “copy of the State of the Union address is not a government record or government property at all.”

"It is personal property,” he said.

Pelosi captured widespread attention earlier this week after she ripped up Trump’s prepared remarks at the end of his State of the Union address.

When explaining the gesture during a closed-door caucus meeting on Wednesday, sources said Pelosi told lawmakers, “He shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech.”

“You are supposed to talk about the State of the Union, not the state of your alleged mind,” she also said then, after calling Trump’s speech “a manifesto of mistruths."

—Updated at 11:21 a.m.