By Zachary Cohen, Marshall Cohen and Gabby Orr, CNN
In a new memoir, Donald Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows doubles down on the baseless claim the 2020 election was stolen and whitewashed the violent attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6, according to a copy of the book obtained by CNN.
The book, titled “The Chief’s Chief,” spans nearly 300 pages and is set to be released next week. Meadows vigorously defends his former boss and peddles many of the debunked claims about alleged voter fraud and ballot irregularities that fueled the insurrection in the first place.
Meadows absolves Trump of responsibility for the attack, giving just cursory details and echoing unfounded claims about the events of the day.
Throughout the memoir, Meadows describes work-related conversations with Trump from his time at the White House, including private discussions about the election, efforts to find voter fraud and Trump’s speech at the Ellipse near the White House on January 6.
Meadows previously told the House select committee investigating the attack that conversations like these are shielded by executive privilege — but these new disclosures in his new memoir could undermine his privilege claims, said House Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff.
“He clearly is waiving any claim he has to keep confidential his communications with the former President or what happened in the White House,” Schiff, a California Democrat who is on the House select committee, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Thursday. “After all, if he can say it in a book, why he can’t he say it before Congress in an investigation?”
Meadows is cooperating with the committee on some aspects of its subpoena, but privilege-related issues still aren’t settled. His attorney didn’t respond to questions Friday about whether Trump waived privilege for those portions of the book.
The book touches on other key topics from the last year of Trump’s presidency, ranging from Trump’s battles with Pentagon leadership, the swift confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and the disputed timeline regarding Trump’s positive test for Covid-19 shortly before debating Joe Biden in fall 2020.
Absolving Trump of January 6
The penultimate chapter of the book contains Meadows’ perspective surrounding January 6.
“The idea to gather on January 6 was organic,” Meadows wrote, although he didn’t discuss the Trump campaign officials, donors, informal advisers and family members deeply involved in the planning.
“(Trump) did not call for violence and he did not expect anyone would enter the Capitol Building,” Meadows claims, even though Trump explicitly encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell” against the lawmakers who refused to overturn Biden’s electoral victory.
Meadows only revealed one conversation with Trump from January 6, saying that Trump ad-libbed when he said: “we’re going to walk down” to the Capitol, “and I’ll be there with you.”
“When he got off stage, President Trump let me know that he had been speaking metaphorically about the walk to the Capitol,” Meadows wrote. “He knew as well as anyone that we couldn’t organize a trip like that on such short notice. It was clear the whole time that he didn’t actually intend to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue with the crowd.”
The book correctly notes that only a fraction of rallygoers ended up inside the Capitol, and that some people were already wreaking havoc at the Capitol before Trump finished speaking.
But Meadows’ narrative that the throngs of supporters didn’t take Trump’s comments seriously has been contradicted by many of the rioters themselves. According to court filings, many of the rioters later said in FBI interviews that they didn’t plan to go to the Capitol but were inspired by Trump’s speech, and that they expected he would be there too.
He summed up the insurrection as “shameful” and “regrettable” but claimed the violence was orchestrated by “a small group of people” and “a handful of fanatics.” Officials have said roughly 2,000 people breached the Capitol that day, and more than 680 people have been charged with federal crimes. There were hundreds of assaults against police officers, leading to 140 injuries.
From the very first pages of the memoir, Meadows embraces and promotes the falsehood that Trump won the election.
At one point, Meadows falsely claims nearly every person that voted for Trump last year believes the election was rigged. Referencing the “forgotten men and women that Trump served so well,” Meadows said, “There are more than 70 million of these people, all of whom believe they were cheated out of another four years of President Trump.”
A wide array of cybersecurity officials, federal judges and election officials from both parties, as well as post-election audits and recounts have confirmed that the 2020 election was not tainted. Trump lost the Electoral College vote and lagged behind Biden in the popular vote by more than 7 million ballots. Trump finished with roughly 74 million votes, compared to Biden’s 81 million.
Meadows does describe private conversations with Trump where he and other officials attempted to explain to the former President how he lost the election. Members of the select committee have said Trump’s efforts to overturn the election are a key part of their investigation, and these disclosures could help the committee as it tries to pry loose details from Trump aides.
In other sections of the book, Meadows outlines Team Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election results. He claimed it was their duty to investigate the claims because they firmly believe Trump won by a wide margin, based on rally attendance and twitter traffic. He recounts a conversation with Trump where they were attempting to explain how he lost the election.
“I didn’t know what to say to him, standing there in front of the Resolute Desk with some of the campaign’s top advisors, when we he asked me what had put us so far behind in states that we were sure — as in dead certain — that we could win,” Meadows wrote.
Trump’s Covid test
Meadows details that others inside Trump’s inner circle besides himself were made aware that he had tested positive for Covid-19 three days before he attended the first presidential debate in Cleveland.
Meadows writes that as soon as Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, called to inform him that then-President Trump had received a positive result on September 26, he dialed White House social media director Dan Scavino, who was on the Marine One helicopter at the time.
“To my shock, Dan answered the phone, and he could hear about every other word I was saying to him,” Meadows wrote in a copy of the book obtained by CNN.
“What he heard probably went something like: ‘Dan… President… positive… Covid… keep… six feet… don’t let anyone near –.'”
Meadows does not indicate whether Trump was tested again before hosting events at the White House over the days that followed, or before arriving to the debate hall in Cleveland later that week.
“We’ll probably never know whether President Trump was positive that evening,” he writes.
Trump said in a statement Wednesday, “The story of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News. In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate.”
Several senior aides to Trump soon tested positive for Covid-19, including Stephen Miller and Kayleigh McEnany. Meadows claims he was informed of his positive result. Others who were constantly around the president, including Hope Hicks also tested positive soon after.
In his book, however, Meadows declined to even consider that Trump may have transmitted the virus to his aides.
“Who, for instances, had infected Hope (Hicks), and where was that person now?” he writes. “Even in the debate prep sessions alone — where Hope, Chris Christie and Jared Kushner had all come within a few feet of him — would have been enough to infect him.”
This story has been updated with additional details Friday.
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