In his Mar. 21 testimony before the committee, former White House aide Nick Luna said that he saw Trump tearing documents.
According to audio recordings of Nick Luna’s deposition acquired by CBS News, Luna said before the House select committee looking into the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, that he saw Trump “tearing” documents.
“Did I ever see him tear up notes? I don’t know what the documents were but there [was] tearing,” Luna said in his Mar. 21 testimony before the committee.
Federal law demands that presidential records be meticulously preserved and eventually given to the National Archives, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.
Dan George, the committee’s senior investigative counsel, repeated his question about whether Trump had torn up any documents, to which Luna responded, “That’s correct.”
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However, Luna claimed that he had no recollection of details of any records that might have been destroyed.
In the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, Luna, who worked as his personal assistant inside the White House, supervised Oval Office operations and had unparalleled access to the president. And on the day of the Capitol attack, he was one of the staff members who frequently accompanied Trump.
The audio files also show that Luna testified that Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, had told him not to enter the room before a meeting with state Republican legislators who wanted to void the 2020 presidential election.
“There was one instance where it would normally be my job to go in and make sure that [the] president is comfortable in wherever the situation is,” Luna told the committee. “And I remember, specifically, this instance [Meadows] had said, ‘Do not, don’t come in, don’t come into the room today.”
Luna said in court that he could not recall precisely when the White House chief of staff told him not to enter the room and that he was unaware of why Meadows allegedly requested him to leave. But he claimed to recollect that the order came down just as Meadows was getting ready to meet with some visiting state Republican legislators.
Trump met with Republican state leaders in the West Wing on multiple occasions after the election, including on November 20, 2020, with lawmakers from Michigan, and on November 25, 2020, with politicians from Pennsylvania. According to two Trump aides who were not permitted to publicly talk, both of those sessions included discussions about whether state legislatures may take legal or legislative actions to reverse the results of the elections in those respective states, which were won by President Joe Biden.
“I just remember [Meadows] being around the office,” Luna told the House select committee. “I don’t remember if it was the Michigan or Pennsylvania. I didn’t know — I don’t remember that those were the places. But I do remember him on, on one or the other of those being, before going into the meeting, in my office.”
When questioned about the situation and if Meadows asking him to leave the room was strange, Luna responded that he wasn’t sure of the context but observed that it was unusual.
“It may have been one of two or three times that he asked me to do that,” Luna said. “But that’s not — I don’t know if odd would be the right characterization.”
When pressed further, Luna emphasised that it was “correct” to draw the inference that being asked to leave the room prior to a meeting with Trump was a “rare occurrence.”
His virtual deposition was held in response to a subpoena the committee had issued to him in November of the previous year.
Nick Luna’s attorney said to CBS News on Tuesday, “Nick Luna testified fully and honestly and doesn’t have any further comments.”
The House Select Committee’s spokesman chose not to respond to inquiries.
The Trump campaign said in a statement to CBS News, “the January 6th Unselect Committee held show trials by Never Trump partisans who are a stain on this country’s history. This Kangaroo court has been nothing more than a vanity project that insults Americans’ intelligence and makes a mockery of our democracy.”
Meadows’s attorney was not available.
Following earlier claims that Trump tore up documents, Luna testified regarding Trump’s alleged document tearing. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman reported earlier this year that Mr. Trump occasionally tore up documents, some of which had his handwriting on them, and threw the pieces in the toilet, which occasionally clogged the White House’s pipes.
The Justice Department has also been looking into Trump and his friends while the House Select Committee is wrapping up much of its work this week and intends to disclose its final report and materials on Wednesday, including the release of some of the interview transcripts. Grand jury inquiries into the Capitol attack, attempts to obstruct congressional certification of President Biden’s victory, and Trump’s handling of confidential documents are some of these efforts.
A special counsel appointed by the Justice Department will ultimately decide whether or not Trump should be charged. The former president announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 last month.
In a historic but largely symbolic move, the committee on Monday recommended the Justice Department pursue at least four criminal charges against Trump in connection with his alleged attempts to obstruct the transfer of presidential power. This is the first time a former president has been the target of a criminal referral by Congress.
Here are the exchanges from the audio files that were broadcast on “CBS Evening News” on December 20, 2022, for reference.
On Trump’s handling of documents
DAN GEORGE: It looks like it’s hard to see in here, but you can see somewhat of a tear just above, starting above the word ‘out’ and then continuing across the line. Do you know whether the president ever tore up notes when he was finished with them?
GEORGE: Okay. And just to be clear, did the president tear up notes when he was finished with them?
NICK LUNA: Yes. I mean, at times. I don’t know. Did I ever see him tear up notes? I don’t know what the documents were, but there [was] tearing.
GEORGE: Okay. So — and not asking you to account for every single note or piece of paper that crossed the president’s desk — but you are aware that at least sometimes the president would tear up notes or pieces of paper when he was done with them. Is that correct?
LUNA: Yes, sir, that’s correct.
On an exchange with Mark Meadows
NICK LUNA: So, if my memory serves me correct, there was the meeting with, I don’t even remember whether they were from, people that were from, state legislators or they were state senators or something like that. And I do remember Mr. Meadows being, um, I don’t know if he was in charge of it, but I do remember him having a part in that. But that’s what I’m thinking about. And in terms of like, yeah, that may have been a conversation that I, not a conversation, but a directive that was in his, you know, in, that I remember correctly.
GEORGE: Okay. And what I’m going to do, I’m about to say something, not to suggest anything, but to see if it shakes anything loose. What we call refreshing recollection. But there was a state legislature, a group from the Pennsylvania state legislature, who came down at the end of November, November 25, after a hearing in Pennsylvania. There were also state legislators who came from Michigan. Speaker Chatfield and Senator Shirkey. Did one of those events or meetings — does that refresh your recollection about what you just mentioned with respect to Mr. Meadows and what he was doing?
LUNA: I definitely, I did not know where the people were from and I did not attend the meetings and I did not — I wasn’t a party to that. But I do remember, um, the, the chief having, having a role in, I don’t. I don’t know. I mean, I just remember him being around the office. That, and I don’t remember if it was the Michigan or Pennsylvania. I didn’t know that. I don’t remember that those were the places. But I do remember him on a on one or the other those being, before going into the meeting, in my office.
DAN GEORGE: You mentioned his role. Do you know what his role was with respect to those meetings or coming out of those meetings?
NICK LUNA: I do not, sir. No.
DAN GEORGE: Do you remember Mr. Meadows saying anything to you about any of those meetings?
NICK LUNA: I do. Yes sir, I do.
DAN GEORGE: What’d he say?
NICK LUNA: There was one instance where it would normally be my job to go in and make sure that the President is comfortable in wherever the situation is — if he’s sitting in the chair or something like that. And I remember specifically this instance he had said, do not, don’t come in. Don’t come into the room today.
DAN GEORGE: Mr. Meadows said that to you.
NICK LUNA: Correct.
DAN GEORGE: Did he ever tell you why not to come into the room?
NICK LUNA: He did not.
DAN GEORGE: Did you think that was odd, just based on your experience working at the White House?
NICK LUNA: I don’t know, I mean, there are so many types of meetings and, you know, classified. Otherwise, it wasn’t you know, I don’t know if it was necessarily odd. It would, it may have been one of two or three times that he asked me to do that. But that’s not, I don’t know if I would be the right characterization.
DAN GEORGE: Okay. But that didn’t happen very frequently. It sounds like it was a rare occurrence that you were told not to come into a meeting like that.
NICK LUNA: Correct.