White House chief of staff argues Trump sister recordings don't accurately describe president

Mark Meadows also criticized Democrats' $25 billion USPS as not "serious."

August 23, 2020, 2:08 PM

Hours after recordings of President Donald Trump's sister surfaced -- in which she describes her brother as having "no principles," and alleged that "he doesn't read" and had someone take his college entrance exams on his behalf -- White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows came to the president's defense Sunday, characterizing the claims as an inaccurate portrayal of the man he works for.

"The president that I have the privilege of serving is not the one that's being described on a 15-hour … secret tape," Meadows said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday.

In audio captured by Trump's niece, Mary and provided to The Washington Post, Maryanne Trump Barry, a retired U.S. Circuit Court judge, describes her brother as phony and "cruel" and details the allegation that a man named Joe Shapiro took the SATs for him.

"The president has denied this, but why would his sister lie about it in what she thought was a private conversation? Does the president have any evidence at all to back up his denial?" ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Meadows.

Meadows pointed to pushback from the widow of a friend of Trump's named Joe Shapiro, but Mary Trump claims the test was taken by a different man with the same name. The chief of staff went on to refute the claims about Trump's reading habits.

"You may see him when he goes to Marine One, there's a cardboard box that is brought on Marine One. What's in there are clippings and clippings, each and every day," Meadows said. "He reads probably more than anybody I know, which causes me to have to read more because every morning he's giving me a to-do list. Every evening he's giving me a to-do list."

"So listen this is politics as usual, by a niece that was written out of a will, that apparently just has an axe to grind because she wants Joe Biden to be president" he continued, referencing a family battle over Trump's father Fred's estate, after saying earlier, "You know, just another day and another attack," echoing the president's own response to the recordings.

"Every day it’s something else, who cares," Trump said in a statement on Saturday.

In the interview, Stephanopoulos additionally challenged Meadows on Trump's tweet Saturday alleging that "The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics," and claiming the process was being delayed until after the election.

"What evidence does the president have that the FDA is manipulating this process, this approval process, for political reasons?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"This president is about cutting red tape. That's what the tweet was all about," the chief of staff said, after first refuting that anything was being "manipulated." "He had to make sure that they felt the heat. If they don't see the light, they need to feel the heat because the American people are suffering, this president knows it, and he's going to put it on wherever -- the FDA or NIH or anybody else to make sure that we deliver on behalf of the American people."

Asked why Trump doesn't fire the FDA commissioner if he truly believes political preferences are interfering, Meadows acknowledged that the administration "looked at a number of people that are not being as diligent as they should be" and that it intends to convey a greater sense of "urgency."

"We've actually had people that have been relocated," he said.

The FDA has not responded to the president's tweet but FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn shared a tweet from the White House press secretary that promoted his participation in the president's Sunday evening news conference.

PHOTO: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows returns to the West Wing following an interview with FOX News outside the White House on Aug. 21, 2020, in Washington.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows returns to the West Wing following an interview with FOX News outside the White House on Aug. 21, 2020, in Washington. Meadows talked about Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Saturday, Meadows visited the Capitol as the House returned from its August recess to pass a $25 billion bill to fund the U.S. Postal Service. The chief of staff attempted to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but she was unavailable. Meadows later criticized Pelosi for holding a vote on the Postal Service but being unwilling to isolate other priorities from the stalled coronavirus relief bill for separate votes.

He continued the argument on "This Week" Sunday, describing the House legislation as an unserious bill that "doesn't do anything to sustain the Postal System long term." Meadows, who noted that the administration had earlier offered $10 billion in funding for the USPS, said he was planning to call Pelosi later in the day and attempt to negotiate a deal that packages several relief proposals together as an alternative.

"If we agree on five or six things, let's go ahead and pass those," he said. "Why did you not do it yesterday? But let's go ahead and pass it. I spoke to the president early this morning, he's willing to sign that, including Postal Service reform."

Pelosi hasn't responded Meadows' comments.

Stephanopoulos also pressed Meadows about followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which the FBI has labeled a domestic terrorism threat and has been denounced by several prominent Republicans. Asked about the group -- which believes, in part, that Trump is trying to save the world from a powerful cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles -- Wednesday, the president said he knew little about it but "appreciate(s)" their support.

"Is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing?” he asked. "If I can help save the world from problems, I am willing to do it. I’m willing to put myself out there.”

"Why won't the president condemn this group and disavow their support?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"Listen, I had to Google it to figure out what it is," Meadows said, adding, "If you look at the top 20 priorit(ies), QAnon is not on it. It's probably not on the top 50. You know, it's time that we get serious about questions and move on."

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