NEW YORK (AP) — The news story that reportedly caused former President Donald Trump to throw his lunch against a White House wall came from an exclusive interview that former Attorney General William Barr had arranged with The Associated Press.
The scoop, which was published on Dec. 1, 2020, quoted Barr as saying that the U.S. Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election. It was a bombshell that contradicted the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of the election.
In testimony before the Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson recalled “hearing noise coming from down the hallway” around the time the AP interview was published.
She noticed a door propped open in a West Wing dining room room where Trump had eaten, and a valet who was changing a tablecloth.
“He motioned for me to come in and then pointed towards the front of the room near the fireplace mantle and the TV when I first noticed there was ketchup dripping down the wall and there was a shattered porcelain plate on the floor,” Hutchinson said.
The valet told her that Trump was angry about Barr’s interview with AP and had thrown his lunch against the wall, she said.
“I grabbed a towel to clean up ketchup from the wall,” she said.
The story had been written by AP Justice Department reporter Michael Balsamo, who had been told a day earlier that Barr wanted him to come in for lunch. In videotaped testimony to the committee, Barr said that he “felt it was time to say something” about the voter fraud claims.
Recognizing the importance of the statement when Barr said the department had uncovered no evidence of voter fraud, Balsamo asked him to repeat it, and he did. He quickly filed his story from an office in the Justice Department when lunch was over.
Neither Balsamo nor AP editors had any comment Tuesday about Hutchinson’s testimony.
Shortly after the interview that day, Barr went to the White House for a previously scheduled meeting with Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, for whom Hutchinson was a special assistant.
“I told my secretary that I thought I would probably be fired and told … not to come back to my office, so you might have to pack up,” Barr said in his videotaped testimony, released in an earlier hearing.
He was asked to see Trump, who was “as mad as I’ve ever seen him,” and suggested that the attorney general hated him.
Barr resigned as attorney general a few weeks later.
During his testimony before the Jan. 6 committee, Barr said “My opinion then and my opinion now is the election was not stolen by fraud, and I haven’t seen anything since that election that changes my mind on that.”