It was about 2:00 p.m. on January 6, 2021. Mark Meadows was sitting on a couch in his West Wing office, alone, scrolling through his cellphone. Across Washington from the White House, supporters of President Donald J. Trump approached the Capitol and protested the certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College victory.
‘Do you watch TV, Chief?’ Cassidy Hutchinson, a top assistant to Mr. Meadows, the White House chief of staff, remembered asking him. “The rioters are getting very close. Have you spoken to the president?”
No, Mr. Meadows replied, his eyes on his phone. mr. Trump, he continued, “wants to be alone now.”
Ms. Hutchinson’s account of a chief of staff who was disengaged at best and overwhelmed at worst by events around him was a key part of her public appearance on Tuesday during a hastily scheduled hearing by the House select committee. who investigated the riots in the Capitol, and what led to it.
Another assistant to Mr. Meadows, Ben Williamson, gave a different assessment, saying in testimony to the House committee that Mr. Meadows responded when Mr. Williamson said there was a problem. “Any suggestion that he didn’t care about is ridiculous,” Mr Williamson said in a statement on Wednesday.
Mrs. Hutchinson’s lawyers said on Wednesday she would stand by her testimony. But even without Ms. Hutchinson’s memories, several of Mr. Meadows’s former colleagues and those who associated with him as the riots unfolded painted a portrait of an ineffective chief of staff as a violent scene developed in the Capitol.
When he hired Mr. Meadows in March 2020, Mr. Trump gleefully told his allies that he had found his James A. Baker III, a White House chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan and the person many successors have sought to emulate as the gold standard for running a West Wing.
But within months, as the coronavirus pandemic raged and the economy Trump was so proud of collapsed, Mr. Meadows became known among many of his colleagues as someone who spoke with both sides of his mouth. He encouraged Trump’s disgust by calling for more mandates for masks, mocked scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, according to former colleagues, engaged in petty battles internally with aides he believed were not following his authority.
But instead of taking on the role of gatekeeper and bringing order to a chaotic West Wing, Mr. Meadows often criticized by employees as terrified of Mr. Trump and eager to please him.
After the election, Mr Meadows played a key role in encouraging House Republicans to look at ways to undermine Mr Biden’s victory.
Meadows called or texted Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, 18 times to arrange a meeting with Trump, and he made a trip to the state to take a closer look at the inspection of voting machines. He was in regular contact with Trump supporters who urged him to fight the outcome, including Virginia Thomas, wife of Judge Clarence Thomas.
Over the course of his tenure, Mr. Meadows helped create a rift between Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, according to a handful of former White House officials, by devoting himself to duties the Vice President had held in the past. would perform. Among other things, Meadows injected herself during a trip to the Capitol with Amy Comey Barrett when she was running for the Supreme Court, a visit that Pence was expected to play a prominent role in leading, a former White House aide recalled.
“I think Mark often told me he was trying to get the president to admit and accept the election results,” Marc Short, Mr. Pence’s former chief of staff, told CBS News’ Face the Nation. recently.
“And at the same time, it was clear that he was bringing a lot of other people to the White House who were feeding the president various conspiracy theories,” said Mr. short. “I think Mark told different audiences all kinds of different stories.”
On election night, when Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, wanted to encourage the president to declare victory long before all the votes had been counted, Mr. Meadows and three other aides dismissed the idea as stupid. But within days, Mr. Meadows began exchanging messages with his former House colleagues.
“I love it,” Mr. Meadows responded to a suggestion from Arizona Republican Representative Andy Biggs, on Nov. 5, 2020, about a plan to push legislatures in key states that Mr. Trump had lost to appoint so-called deputies. send voters to Congress.
Within weeks of that text exchange, Mr. Meadows assured Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, that, despite his repeated public statements that the election had been stolen from him, Mr. Trump would eventually concede the election.
At the same time, Mr. Meadows continued to allow people into the White House who encouraged Mr. Trump to take actions that could undermine the results of the election. And he forwarded conspiracy theories about the election to senior government officials for scrutiny.
But on December 18, 2020, Mr. Meadows was one of Trump’s advisers to oppose a group of outside Trump supporters — including Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser — who urged Mr. Trump to authorize the seizure of voting machines by the government to detect electoral fraud.
Finally, Mr. Meadows are looking at January 6, 2021, as the last option for Mr. Trump. But as the day’s events unfolded, his colleagues said at the time, Mr. Meadows seemed completely overwhelmed, at times to the point of paralysis. He reached out to Ivanka Trump to come down from her office to try and beg her father to ask the rioters to stop, which she did, but it took hours before she managed to get him to do so.
Key Revelations from the January 6 Hearings
Ms. Hutchinson described Mr. Meadows as someone who was aware that the situation that day — as Mr. Trump planned for a meeting he’d tweeted, would be “wild” — would be one of the most damning pieces of her testimony about could become her former boss. †
She also said that at one point Mr. Meadows asked for a pardon for himself, something a current Mr. Meadows employee denied.
At another point during her Capitol Hill appearance, Ms. Hutchinson described a moment that seemed to capture Mr. Meadows’ willingness to yield to Mr. Trump’s wishes. She recalled picking up Mr. Meadows’ phone ringing on Jan. 6 after Mr. Meadows left his office and went to see Mr. Trump.
It was Representative Jim Jordan from Ohio who called and she had the phone with her to put it through to Mr. Meadows, she said. He took it and then joined her in his office with White House attorney Pat A. Cipollone, and possibly another attorney, Eric Herschmann.
“I remember Pat saying something along the lines of, Mark, we need to do something more,” she said, noting that the crowd shouted for Mr. Pence to be hanged.
Mr. Meadows, she said, responded, “You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it,” referring to Mr. Trump’s feelings about Mr. Pence. “He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”