Former President Donald Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows burned dozens of documents — sometimes following meetings with Republicans seeking to overturn the 2020 election results — during the tumultuous transition of power to Joe Biden, according to a former top aide.
Cassidy Hutchinson, who provided bombshell testimony in June before the House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, had previously told committee members and investigators in May that she had seen her now-former boss, Mark Meadows, tossed “full sheets of paper” on the fireplace in his office around a dozen times.
The revelations emerged over the course of multiple exchanges with investigators and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo) during Hutchinson’s May 17, 2022, sit-down with committee members and investigators.
According to the transcript released by the committee:
Ms. Cheney: So did you see Mr. Meadows put documents in his fireplace?
Ms. Hutchinson: Yes, ma’am.
Ms. Cheney: And do you know what the documents were?
Ms. Hutchinson: I don’t know.
Ms. Cheney: How frequently did you see him do this?
Ms. Hutchinson . I mean , it’s hard — I want to say once a week or twice — it’s — I can recall specific times that I did. Maybe a dozen, maybe just over a dozen, but this is over a period December through mid-January too, which is when we started lighting the fireplace.
Hutchinson emphasized that it is “standing protocol” for all presidential administrations to use “burn bags” to dispose of papers and documents, which are never just tossed in regular trash cans.
“Mr. Meadows did use burn bags as most staff do,” Hutchinson said, confirming that her former boss was aware of the protocol for disposing of documents.
“I Didn’t Want There To Be a Fire in the West Wing.”
When Cheney asked Hutchinson if she could recall specific times that Meadows incinerated, Hutchinson said that she didn’t seem him burn papers on a daily basis, but that she remembered seeing him toss papers on the fire multiple times when the fire in his office was lit in the winter of 2020, before the Trump administration vacated the premises.
“[I]t was when we would have the GSA, General Services Administrative staff come light it first thing in the morning, and then they had logs next to his fireplace and his closet too,” Hutchinson said. “So throughout the day, he would put more logs on the fireplace to keep it burning throughout the day. And I recall roughly a dozen times where he would take the — I don’t know the formal name for what it’s called that covers the fireplace — but take that off and then throw a few more pieces of paper in with it when he put more logs on the fireplace.”
“And could you see him do this from your desk?” Cheney asked.
“I was in the office with him,” Hutchinson explained. “I couldn’t see the fireplace from my desk[.]”
“Did he explain what he was doing?” Cheney pressed.
“I never asked,” Hutchinson replied.
Hutchinson said that she didn’t know which documents Meadows tossed on the fire, but she noted that “maybe three or four times,” he had had Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) “in his office right before.”
“Do you know what Mr. Perry was talking to him about?” Cheney asked Hutchinson.
“Election issues,” Hutchinson said, specifying that Meadows and Perry had discussed Pence’s role on Jan. 6.
“Mid-December, I believe, Mr. Perry started coming to meet with Mr. Meadows about what he believed could happen on January 6th , and they were preparing various PowerPoints and he would bring physical material,” Hutchinson said. “I remember one time he — his door was propped open. He put a few things in the fireplace. And there were a few people in the office with him. Mr. Perry was in the office with him, but I don’t remember who else was. Mr. Perry brought a few other people to meet with him.”
Perry has long been associated with the committee’s timeline of the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt, when scores of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol as Congress was certifying Biden’s electoral win. He was among those who had sought a pardon from Trump himself, and is believed to have been a proponent of the controversial — and failed — plan to install lawyer Jeffrey Clark as attorney general in the waning days of the administration.
Hutchinson said that the fireplace in Meadows’ office had been set “about a dozen times” when it got cold during the transition period, and that she had not seen Meadows do it before.
Hutchinson told an investigator that she had concerns that her boss’ practice could potentially grow into a literal conflagration.
“We had real garland for the fireplace over Christmas, and I didn’t want him to light it with the dying real garland, “Hutchinson said. “I didn’t want there to be a fire in the West Wing.”
“There were a handful of times that the West Wing was empty during this period, and there were maybe three or four times that I am aware of that I saw him throw a few things into the fireplace, but again … I never asked,” Hutchinson continued. “They were full sheets of paper. It’s not like it was a note card or just like a — I remember them being 8 by 11, 8.5 by 11 [inch] sheets of paper. But I don’t know what they were[.]”
Hutchinson: I Had “Very Limited Visibility” on What Meadows Had “Potentially Taken Care of in His Own Way.”
Hutchinson told the committee that Meadows took several items he deemed to be souvenirs as his time in the White House wound down.
“Mr. Meadows removed documents from the White House in the post-January 6th period up until leaving the White House,” she said. “Some, I believe, were what he had saw as mementos, things that the President had signed for him, things that I believe are okay to take out of the West Wing. Others, not so sure. But, again, those documents, I had very, very limited visibility on what he was taking or what he had potentially taken care of in his own way.”
“What does that mean?” Cheney asked.
“In the fireplace,” Hutchinson clarified.
Hutchinson said that Meadows burning of documents in the fireplace had become “a little bit more frequent pre-January 6th,” according to the transcript.
“I remember seeing maybe two or three times post-January 6th,” she said. “But again, I don’t think I’m aware of every time he did it. It was just if I ducked in and seen it happen or by being in there and talking to him about other things. So it was just by proximity of association at the time.”
Meadows’ former aide did specify one time when she was certain that Meadows did not burn documents: when his wife was helping him clear out his office.
“I believe that we stopped lighting the fireplace around January 16th, 15th or 16th. And if I had the — it was when he started moving all of his items out of the — his office, there’s a photo on Twitter. I would know the date if I saw it. But Mrs. Meadows was coming to the White House. And she didn’t — the smell of the fireplace and the smoke would give her a headache. So we stopped lighting it when she was coming to the White House to help him move his belongings out.”
“And do you know where he was taking his belongings?” Cheney asked.
“Back to his condo in Old Town Alexandria,” Hutchinson replied.
“So when that fire — when you stopped lighting the fire, did you see him destroy documents in any other ways?”
Hutchinson said that she did not, other than by using “burn bags, which is the authorized document discarding [method].”
Attorney Stefan Passantino — who reportedly told his client that she would benefit from a faulty memory — accompanied Hutchinson for this interview. By her June interview with the committee, however, he was no longer representing her.
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