Update: Original information in this story was not accurate. According to a fact check from Lead Stories, Pelosi does not face criminal charges or any jail time for tearing up the speech. We regret the error and have corrected it.
The walls are starting to close in on House Speaker and California Rep. Nancy Pelosi and she could be facing serious prison time for her crimes.
Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson, who graduated from the Louisiana State University Law Center, made the case that the Speaker could face serious consequences for her speech ripping stunt at the State of the Union address last week when he appeared on the Fox News show “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
It was a shameful display. It was stunning, really, to many members sitting in the House. It was totally unprecedented, it was shameless and it was also unlawful Tucker,” the representative said.
“A lot of people have been talking about this the last 48 hours, and I did a little legal memo to point out to my colleagues that she actually committed a felony when she tore that paper up,” he said.
“It wasn’t just any copy of the State of the Union Address. It was the copy — the original — and we have over two centuries of custom and tradition and of course, the Constitution that calls for the State of the Union Address,” he said.
“When the president delivers the copies to those top legal officers — those two top legislative officers in that co-equal branch of government — those are the official documents of the House, and if you tear those up, you’ve violated a specific statute in the criminal code,” he said.
In other words, this is a very serious matter and not one that should be swept under the rug.
“The statute on point, 18 U.S.C.A. 2071, is entitled ‘Concealment, removal, or mutilation generally,’ he said in his memo.
“(a) Whoever willfully and unlawfully… mutilates, obliterates, or destroys… any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other thing, filed or deposited with any… public officer of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
“(b) Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or another thing, willfully and unlawfully… mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States,” he said in his memo to colleagues.
And he said that her excuse that she tore it in a frustrated tantrum is not something that should shield her from criminal prosecution.
“It is fortunate for history—but quite unfortunate for Mrs. Pelosi—that in the statutes requiring the preservation of government records there are no exceptions for political disapproval or personal disagreement with the contents of those records,” he said.
“Because no previous Speaker of the House has ever been engaged in the egregious conduct of destroying government documents in this manner, none has ever been prosecuted for the crime. Thus, while the plain language of 18 U.S.C. 2071 seems to clearly apply on its face to Speaker Pelosi’s actions on Tuesday night, it is a case of the first impression. Millions of Americans believe it is a case that should be duly prosecuted,” he said.