Nick Luna, a former White House aide to President Donald Trump, told the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol that he witnessed Trump “tearing” documents, according to audio files of Luna’s deposition that were obtained by CBS News.
“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.
According to the Presidential Records Act, federal law requires that presidential records are carefully preserved and then handed over to the National Archives.
When asked again by Dan George, the committee’s senior investigative counsel, whether Trump tore up some documents, Luna replied, “That’s correct.”
But Luna said that he did not recall any details about documents that might have been destroyed.
Luna, who served as Trump’s personal aide inside the White House, had extraordinary access to the president during the final weeks of Trump’s term and managed Oval Office operations. And he was one of the staffers who was regularly with Trump on the day of the attack on the Capitol.
The audio files also reveal that Luna testified that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had instructed him to not enter the room ahead of a meeting with state Republican legislators who wanted to overturn 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 testified that he was unsure of why Meadows allegedly told him to stay out of the room, and he could not remember when exactly the White House chief of staff told him not to enter. But he said he recalled the directive occurred as Meadows was preparing to meet with visiting state Republican legislators.
Trump had several documented West Wing meetings with allied state Republican lawmakers in the post-election period, including a Nov. 20, 2020, meeting with Michigan legislators and a Nov. 25, 2020, meeting with Pennsylvania legislators. Both of those sessions included discussions about whether state legislatures could take legal or legislative steps to overturn the election results in those respective states, which were carried by President Joe Biden, according to two Trump advisers who were not authorized to speak publicly.
“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 pressed on the context and on whether it was odd for Meadows to ask him to stay out of the room, Luna said he was uncertain of the context but noted it was rare.
“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.”
Luna then reiterated, when asked again, that it was “correct” to conclude that it was a “rare occurrence” for him to be asked to stay out of the room ahead of a Trump meeting.
His deposition, which was conducted virtually, was in response to a subpoena issued to him by the committee the previous November.
“Nick Luna testified fully and honestly and doesn’t have any further comments,” Luna’s counsel told CBS News on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the House select committee declined to comment.
In a statement, the Trump campaign told 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.”
A lawyer for Meadows could not be reached.
Luna’s testimony about Trump’s alleged tearing of documents follows previous reports that Trump ripped up documents. Reporter Maggie Haberman of The New York Times reported earlier this year that “on some occasions, Mr. Trump would rip up documents — some with his handwriting on them — and throw the pieces in a toilet, which occasionally clogged the pipes in the White House.”
While the House select committee is finishing much of its work this week and plans to issue its final report and material on Wednesday, including the release of some of the interview transcripts, the Justice Department has also been investigating Trump and his allies. Those efforts include grand jury investigations into the Capitol attack and related attempts to block the congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s election, as well as Trump’s handling of classified records.
The Justice Department has also appointed a special counsel who will ultimately decide whether or not Trump should be indicted. The former president announced last month that he is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
On Monday, the committee recommended the Justice Department pursue at least four criminal charges against Trump related to his alleged efforts to thwart the transfer of presidential power – a historic yet largely symbolic move that marks the first time a former president has been the subject of a criminal referral by Congress.
For reference, here are the exchanges from the audio files that were played on “CBS Evening News” on Dec. 20, 2022.
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.