May 31, 2022
Weeks after Election Day 2020, then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows burned papers in his office after meeting with a House Republican who was working to challenge Joe Biden’s win, according to testimony that the January 6 select committee has heard from one of Meadows’ former aides, reports Politico.
Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked for Meadows at that time, told the panel investigating the Capitol attack that she saw Meadows incinerate documents after a meeting in his office with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania). A person familiar with the testimony described it on condition of anonymity.
The Meadows-Perry meeting came in the weeks after Election Day 2020, as Trump and his allies searched for ways to reverse the election results.
It’s unclear whether Hutchinson told the committee which specific papers were burnt, and if federal records laws required the materials’ preservation. Meadows’ destruction of papers is a key focus for the select committee, and the person familiar with the testimony said investigators pressed Hutchinson for details about the issue for more than 90 minutes during a recent deposition.
Politico could not independently confirm that Meadows burned papers after a meeting with Perry.
A lawyer for Meadows declined to comment, as did a spokesperson for the January 6 committee. A lawyer for Hutchinson did not respond to requests for comment, and neither did a spokesperson for Perry.
Before the 2020 election, Perry—who represents the Harrisburg, Pennyslvania, region — had a relatively low national profile. But testimony and documents obtained by congressional investigators show he was the first person to connect Trump with Jeffrey Clark, a top Justice Department official who sympathized with the then-president’s efforts to overturn his loss to Joe Biden.
Senior Trump DOJ officials have testified that the former president came close to appointing Clark as acting attorney general in order to use the department’s extraordinary powers to sow doubt about the election results and urge state legislatures to consider overriding Biden’s victory.
Perry, now chair of the pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus, spent weeks pressing Meadows to implement the plan.
“Mark, just checking in as time continues to count down,” Perry texted Meadows on December 26, 2020, according to messages released by the select panel. “11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration. We gotta get going!”
But the effort didn’t come to fruition. Instead, in an Oval Office meeting, the rest of DOJ leadership threatened to quit if Trump made Clark attorney general.
The select committee has also revealed that Meadows and Perry took steps to conceal some of their communications after the election. For example, in a December 2020 text message exchange the committee included in an April court filing, Perry told Meadows he had “just sent you something on Signal,” referring to the encrypted messaging app popular with journalists and government officials.
An investigation by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee last year delved further into Perry’s involvement in the attempt to overturn the election and urged the January. 6 select panel to look into the Pennsylvanian further.
The New York Times first reported that the committee heard testimony indicating that Meadows had burned White House papers. The Trump White House’s unorthodox approach to document management has drawn significant media scrutiny in recent weeks—and has also caught the attention of DOJ.
During his presidency, Trump was known to tear up papers and throw them in the trash. Aides would scurry to reassemble those papers for archiving, as federal record-keeping laws require.
After leaving the White House, Trump had 15 boxes of documents shipped to Mar-a-Lago. Some of those boxes were marked as classified, according to The Washington Post, and the Justice Department is now investigating the matter. Mishandling classified material is illegal.
Research contact: @politico