Assume Trump willingly leaves the White House on January 20th, but acts like a bad tenant being evicted, and decides to destroy existing paintings, busts, etc. Would he be legally allowed to do this as the current President? Can he destroy parts or all of the White House? I know the White House hires interior decorators, so I'm guessing some parts of the house are removed/destoryed as taste and fashions change. How is "priceless part of American History" vs. "Shag Carpet" determined?


I'm guessing someone would stop Trump if he tried to destroy Bush's Presidential Portrait (or any number of other historical items). On what grounds would they do this? We know from the news he can move them out of sight.


Has no president ever tried to get back at an enemy by destroying a portrait? Trump can't even rip up a document without having someone tape it back together.

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    This also raises the question of well-intentioned but awful decorating. Nov 25, 2020 at 2:58
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    @Studoku - and what makes something interior decorating in the White House? Nov 25, 2020 at 3:10
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    You mean like what the Clintons did?
    – Chipster
    Jan 12, 2021 at 4:18
  • @Chipster From that article it sounds much more like White House personnel did the vandalism rather than the Clintons themselves. Clearly it would be illegal either way, but the article itself says that they weren't able to determine who actually committed the offenses, so it's a bit disingenuous to imply that Bill and Hillary were the ones removing "w" keys from keyboards and smearing glue on desks.
    – Kevin
    Apr 22, 2021 at 20:57

1 Answer 1


This would be a violation of 18 USC 1361, which prohibits destruction of federal property. See also the DoJ legal notes on this crime. The act does have to be willful, so dropping a cup accidentally is not a crime. If for example the act is mustaching Obama's portrait, the damage would probably rise to the quarter-million dollar fine and 10 years in prison level. It would of course be at the discretion of the (new) DoJ whether to press charges.

  • "If for example the act is mustaching Obama's portrait, the damage would probably rise to the quarter-million dollar fine and 10 years in prison level." - Highly unlikely. They'd follow the federal sentencing guidelines, and the portrait would have to be valued absurdly high for a first offense to reach that level.
    – D M
    Jan 10, 2021 at 23:00
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    So you think the value of the portrait is under $1,000? Copies are currently on the market for $2,000, and apparently the original is part of a two-picture deal with an actual cost of $250,000 (coincidentally, the level of the fine set by law).
    – user6726
    Jan 10, 2021 at 23:19
  • Under $1000? No. But how do you get to Offense Level 30 to justify a 120-month sentence? 6 levels for the base offense of some form of property damage. $250,001 - $550,000 worth of damage would add 12 levels. You're at level 18; now how do you add another 12?
    – D M
    Jan 10, 2021 at 23:24
  • By the way, if you wanted to add 24 levels to the original 6 to get to 30 based solely on that, there would have to be in excess of $65,000,000 in damage. Now THAT is what I would call absurdly high for a portrait of a guy who is still alive.
    – D M
    Jan 10, 2021 at 23:27

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