Skip to content Skip to footer

In a Different World, Mark Meadows’s Evidence-Burning Would Be Shocking

Between evidence destruction and subpoena evasion, January 6 investigations are heating up.

Then-Acting White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows arrives at a rally on October 15, 2020, in Greenville, North Carolina.

If I had any remaining faith whatsoever in the reach of the “justice” system as it pertains to the rich and powerful, I’d be halfway convinced Donald Trump and his pals are in impressively deep shit. In the immortal words of Ted “Theodore” Logan, “Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.”

Back in February, it was revealed that while in office, Donald Trump was in the habit of destroying official documents once he was finished looking at them (or not looking at them, as was usually the case). These papers, most of which were supposed to go to the National Archives at some point, wound up in pieces on the floor, and staffers would try to tape them back together. Other times, the shreds wound up in a toilet, after which I assume no tape salvage was attempted. Former White House aide Omarosa Newman tells a tale of Trump actually eating sensitive documents after meeting with his lawyer, Michael Cohen.

These revelations were greeted with a collective, “Oh, OK” from the people. I mean, come on, try harder, hit me where it hurts. After so many years filled with so many stories of Trump’s gross behavior, a report on him wrecking paperwork barely moves the needle. At this point, I’d be more impressed with a headline like, “Confirmed: Trump Is Mammal — Drinks Water, Breathes Air.” Yeah, right. Fake news.

Then along comes this little tidbit. It seems Trump was not the only member of the administration who made a practice of wrecking the documentary record: “Then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows burned papers in his office after meeting with a House Republican who was working to challenge the 2020 election,” reports Politico, “according to testimony the Jan. 6 select committee has heard from one of his former aides.”

The report continues:

Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked under Meadows when he was former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, told the panel investigating the Capitol attack that she saw Meadows incinerate documents after a meeting in his office with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.). 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.

Not to speak too broadly, but a general rule of thumb I adhere to is, “People in an innocent frame of mind don’t destroy evidence.” Oliver North may be one of the most arrogant skinbags ever to curse the Earth, but even he spent some quality time with Fawn Hall and the shredders when the Iran-Contra roof was about to cave in. You could amend the end of that sentence above to suit the circumstances — “People in an innocent frame of mind don’t light things on fire in the White House” — but it’s all the same laundry in the end.

What did Meadows and Perry talk about that inspired such pyrotechnics from the White House chief of staff? Did the aide know? Did she testify to same?

If this is the kind of stuff the January 6 committee has been dredging up in their investigation, the hearings slated for June are going to need a “Warning: Explosives” sign on the door. Meadows was worried enough about any investigation into the doings on January 6 that he torched those papers before the committee had really gotten started. Between him and Trump, I’m frankly amazed the committee actually got any documents at all. Ten bags of ashes and a middle finger would be more in line with the ethos of that administration.

Another Trump satellite currently enduring The Fear is Rep. Jim “Gym” Jordan of Ohio, who has been slapped with a subpoena to appear before his colleagues and explain his role in the attempted overthrow of the government. While not yet in open defiance of the summons, Jordan has rolled out a list of demands to be met before he appears, like some half-assed bank robber who has taken himself hostage by mistake.

Among his requirements is a demand to see the evidence against him: “Jordan requested that the committee provide him with ‘all documents, videos, or other material … that you potentially anticipate using, introducing, or relying on during questioning,’” reports The Washington Post. “Only then could he ‘adequately further respond to [the] subpoena,’ Jordan wrote.”

Cute, that. It’s always nice to see the answers before the test.

The funkiest of the funk, however, comes to us courtesy of a four-judge panel in New York’s appellate division, which upheld Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron’s ruling that Trump and the Trumplings must provide sworn deposition testimony to New York Attorney General Letitia James. Trump’s legal team, in its seemingly eternal quest to bend the notion of incompetence into bold new shapes, took a novel approach toward trying to weasel their clients out of sitting down on the record.

“His lawyers argued that ordering the Trumps to testify violated their constitutional rights because their answers could be used in a parallel criminal investigation,” reports the Associated Press. Ha, ho, um, what now? If that is not the guiltiest line of argument in the history of jurisprudence, it has to be somewhere in the top five. Your Honor, if my client testifies about money laundering, they might ask him about the murders.

The appellate court masticated that ball of cud and spat it out with extreme prejudice. “The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude civil discovery of related facts, at which a party may exercise the privilege against self-incrimination,” they replied. In other words Donny, sit your arse down and practice saying, “On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer,” over and over and over again. Same goes for the Trumplings. That’s going to play real well on the news.

If this timeline continues to unspool as it has, one of these days we’re going to see a headline that reads, “Trump Tried to Eat Declaration of Independence in Front of Horrified National Archive Tourists; Aides Intervened With Big Mac”… and nobody will blink. We have spent so much time since 2016 repeating the incantation, “This is not normal, this is not normal” to try and stave off the normalization of brazen criminal behavior. Have we failed? Trump is eating the paperwork when not flushing it down toilets, his chief of staff is burning the notes of his meetings with known insurrectionists, and Jordan wants the answers to Jeopardy before the show. Our collective tolerance for mendacity has become intolerably high. Mission accomplished?

We have 4 days to raise $37,000 — we’re counting on your support!

For those who care about justice, liberation and even the very survival of our species, we must remember our power to take action.

We won’t pretend it’s the only thing you can or should do, but one small step is to pitch in to support Truthout — as one of the last remaining truly independent, nonprofit, reader-funded news platforms, your gift will help keep the facts flowing freely.