In his new memoir, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows blames just “a handful of fanatics” for the 6 January attack on the Capitol – over which nearly 700 people have now been charged.
“No one would [focus] on the actions of … those supporters of President Trump who came [to Washington on 6 January] without hate in their hearts or any bad intentions,” he writes. “Instead, they would laser in on the actions of a handful of fanatics across town.”
Throughout his book, Meadows seeks to play down Donald Trump’s role in an insurrection regarding which Meadows himself will now co-operate with the investigating House committee.
The former chief of staff writes extensively, supportively and selectively about Trump’s attempts to overturn his election defeat by Joe Biden, of which the Capitol attack was the deadly culmination.
But while enthusiastically repeating Trump’s lie that his defeat was the result of electoral fraud, Meadows skates over attempts to stop the certification of electoral college results, the cause in which the mob attacked the Capitol.
For example, Meadows does not mention Jeffrey Clark, a former Department of Justice official whose attempt to persuade Trump he could legally overturn his defeat landed him in legal jeopardy.
Reporting by Jon Karl of ABC News has placed Meadows in the Oval Office on 3 January, when Clark tried to persuade Trump to fire the acting attorney general, Jeffery Rosen, who rejected the scheme.
In his book, Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, Karl details how Trump was deterred by the threat of mass resignations at the DoJ.
On Wednesday, the 6 January committee recommended a contempt charge for Clark. The issue now moves to the House.
Karl also reports that aides to the then vice-president, Mike Pence, who would oversee certification of results at the Capitol on 6 January, “began to suspect” Meadows himself was pushing schemes to overturn the process.
Meadows, Karl says, sent the vice-president’s staff a memo written by the campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis which argued that Pence could declare results in six key states to be under dispute.
Reporting another memo written by Johnny McEntee, Trump’s director of the presidential personnel office, Karl writes: “This was all madness. There was no other way to put it.”
Karl concurs with other reporters in saying Meadows was not in the Oval Office when on 4 January a constitutional scholar, John Eastman, presented his own memo on how Pence could supposedly stop certification.
Two days later, in a few chaotic hours at the Capitol, offices were ransacked, rioters paraded Trump and Confederate flags through the halls of Congress and lawmakers were hustled to safety. Some rioters chanted that Pence should be captured and hanged. Five people died, including a Trump supporter shot by law enforcement and a Capitol police officer who collapsed the next day.
Meadows, however, insists the mob had “absolutely no urging from President Trump”.
The Guardian obtained a copy of the book, The Chief’s Chief, as Meadows reversed course under threat of a contempt charge and agreed to testify before the House select committee investigating 6 January.
Also this week, lawyers for Trump argued in court that executive privilege means records from his White House should not be released to the panel. The former president contends the same doctrine should apply to former aides.
Last weekend, the California Democrat Adam Schiff said the 6 January panel wanted to establish “the complete role of the former president” in the Capitol riot.
“That is, what did he know in advance about propensity for violence that day? Was this essentially the back-up plan for the failed [election] litigation around the country? Was this something that was anticipated? How was it funded, whether the funders knew about what was likely to happen that day? And what was the president’s response as the attack was going on, as his own vice-president was being threatened?” Schiff stated.
On Tuesday, citing sources close to Trump, the Guardian reported that hours before the Capitol attack, Trump made several calls from the White House to allies at a Washington hotel and talked about ways to stop certification.
Meadows’ book, however, will provide few further answers.
As he rode with Trump to a rally near the White House on 6 January, Meadows writes, Trump “was in mourning for the second term he had been unfairly denied”.
Trump took the stage following an exhortation to “trial by combat” from his attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Trump’s own words featured his instruction to supporters to “fight like hell”.
But Meadows claims the speech was “more subdued than usual”.
He also claims that when Trump told the crowd “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on” Republicans objecting to electoral college results, it was all an “ad lib”.
Meadows said Trump told him immediately after the speech that when he said he would march on the Capitol himself, he had been “speaking metaphorically” – but only because he “knew as well as anyone that we couldn’t organise a trip like that on such short notice”.
In their own Trump book, Peril, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of the Washington Post describe what happened next.
“Following Trump’s hour-long speech, thousands of attendees took his advice. They marched down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol, and when they arrived, they … surged closer and closer to the Capitol despite pleas from [law enforcement].
“By 1.30pm, parts of the crowd had become a mob, pounding on the doors and demanding entry. At 1.50pm [police] declared a riot. Possible pipe bombs had been found nearby.
“Shortly after 2pm, windows at the Capitol began to shatter. They were in. Many were looking for Mike Pence … outside, a makeshift gallows had been erected.”