Newly released transcripts from the House select January 6 committee reveal that former President Donald Trump sought to issue a blanket pardon for a number of controversial figures who attempted to overthrow the 2020 election, including hundreds of his loyalists who participated in the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021.
Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former director of personnel, described in a deposition how Trump proposed a “blanket pardon” for many of the people who took part in the attempted overthrow of the election results.
“One day when we walked into the Oval, I remember it was being discussed, and I remember the president saying, ‘Well, what if I pardoned the people that weren’t violent, that just walked in the building?’” McEntee recalled. “And I think the White House counsel [Pat Cipollone] gave him some pushback.”
The matter was eventually dismissed. But Trump also sought to grant a blanket pardon to all White House personnel, even though many staff members weren’t involved in the day’s events or attempts by Trump and his campaign to overturn the election.
“I remember Cipollone questioning on that, ‘Well, why does anyone need a pardon?'” McEntee said, according to his transcripts. Trump said it was necessary so that investigators “can’t go after them for any little thing.”
“And I think Cipollone said, ‘Yeah, but no one here has done anything wrong,'” McEntee went on.
While Cipollone was opposed to such pardons, other staff members — including Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows — pushed for them behind the scenes.
“Mr. Meadows was personally concerned that there would be a connotation of violence associated with everybody that had gone to the Capitol that day, so he had thought it was an idea worth entertaining and raising to White House Counsel’s Office to pardon those who had been inside the Capitol,” Cassidy Hutchinson, a former staff member for Meadows, said in her testimony to the January 6 committee.
Meadows also wanted Trump to pardon staff members, including himself.
“I don’t remember him lobbying the president very hard for it, but I know that, if there were going to be staff pardons, he wanted to be included in that group,” Hutchinson said.
It’s possible Meadows wanted a blanket pardon because he engaged in numerous actions that were likely illegal. Hutchinson also revealed in her testimony, for example, that Meadows was routinely burning White House documents, an action that may be in violation of the Presidential Records Act.
Meadows burned documents once or twice a week in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, doing so on more than one occasion after speaking with individuals who were involved in the plot to overturn the outcome of the election, Hutchinson testified.
Notably, Meadows didn’t regularly burn documents before Trump’s election loss — according to Hutchinson, Meadows only “started lighting the fireplace” during the last two months of the Trump presidency.