Is Mark Meadows PowerPoint the Watergate 'Smoking Gun' Tape for Donald Trump?

The PowerPoint presentation former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows handed over to the panel probing the January 6 Capitol riot might not necessarily be the equivalent of the Watergate "smoking gun" tape for former President Donald Trump, but they do bear similarities, according to a former Watergate prosecutor.

Jill Wine-Banks, former Watergate Special Prosecutor, was referring to the 38-page PowerPoint presentation titled "Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for JAN 6" that Meadows submitted to the nine-member House Select Committee. A 36-page version with the same title has circulated online.

The explosive document is dated one day before the breach of the U.S. Capitol building, and contains a number of recommendations for Trump and his administration to follow ahead of the certification process to declare Joe Biden the winner.

In an interview with Newsweek, Wine-Banks said that although she believes the PowerPoint presentation is a "pretty terrible, ridiculous document that lays out basically conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, and makes allegations that are totally unfounded and completely contrary to fact," it is unlikely to be the single piece of evidence that links Trump directly to the events that unfolded on January 6.

The Capitol riot took place during a joint session of Congress when lawmakers met to certify electoral votes submitted by states, and rioters and some protesters breached the Capitol grounds and building.

Since details of the PowerPoint came to light, Wine-Banks, a former Watergate prosecutor, said many people have compared the file to the release of the "smoking gun" tape that proved former President Richard's Nixon's involvement in the Watergate cover-up, which he had denied repeatedly.

"A lot of people are saying it [the presentation] is a 'smoking gun,' the equivalent of the Watergate smoking gun tape," said Wine-Banks, author of "The Watergate Girl," referring to the political scandal during the 1970s. "But it isn't, unless it went directly to the president—unless Trump saw or acted on it, or was told about it."

Jill Wine-Banks, former Watergate Special Prosecutor
Jill Wine-Banks speaks during her appearance at Politicon 2017 at Pasadena Convention Center on July 29, 2017 in Pasadena, California. She discusses the Mark Meadows revelations with Newsweek. Michael Schwartz/Getty Images

The PowerPoint document of unknown origin contains elaborate plans to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Meadows allegedly received it in an email from an unknown sender and handed it over to the House committee before he refused to cooperate.

"We don't know who saw that document—obviously Mark Meadows did, it went to him, but we don't know who he sent it to or who he discussed it with, who else was sent the document in the same way that he was sent it," Wine-Banks told Newsweek.

"Did he talk to the president about it? If Trump never saw that document, then it has no implication," she said.

She added however that the two pieces of evidence do bear an "interesting similarity."

"The powerpoint @MarkMeadows gave the #Jan6thCommittee presents an interesting similarity to #Watergate," she said on Twitter on December 13.

"Like #OperationGemstone that was presented to Nixon's AG laying out the Watergate DNC break-in, here the crimes of Jan 6 were laid out in the PPT [PowerPoint] and given to Trump's CofS [Chief of Staff]," she said.

The slides contain explosive details including that senators and congressmen should be informed of apparent "foreign interference" from China and Venezuela in the election, and recommended that Trump declare a national emergency to delay the certification process.

It also discusses a plan to appoint "alternate slates of electors" to overturn election results.

Meadows' attorney, George Terwilliger, has said that Meadows received the document in his email inbox and did nothing with it. "We produced the document because it wasn't privileged," Terwilliger said.

Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chair of the committee, on December 7 referred to some plans outlined in documents submitted to the panel by Meadows as part of a "direct and collateral attack" by Trump allies after the 2020 election.

The House of Representatives voted 222-208 on Tuesday in favor of a resolution to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress, recommending he face federal charges. The Department of Justice must now decide whether to prosecute Meadows.

Newsweek has contacted Meadows' attorney Terwilliger for comment.

Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee's vice-chair, meanwhile has suggested that text messages Meadows received in the days leading up to and on January 6 are evidence of Trump's "supreme dereliction of duty" during the breach of the U.S. Capitol.

"And Mr. Meadows' testimony will bear on another key question before this committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress's official proceeding to count electoral votes? Mark Meadows' testimony will inform our legislative judgments," Cheney said on Tuesday.

Wine-Banks told Newsweek she believes the events that unfolded on January 6, "involve criminal incitement" by Trump.

"He [Trump] incited the crowd to do what they did, he encouraged them to do what they did," she said. "Having been a prosecutor, I know that you can keep investigating, but at some point you have to say 'I've had enough, I'm done, I'm indicting'—I'm hoping that that will happen soon."

Mark Meadows with former President Donald Trump
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as then-Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin (L) and then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (R) listen prior to Trump's Marine One departure from the South Lawn of the White House July 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. Meadows handed over an explosive PowerPoint file to the panel probing the January 6 Capitol breach. Alex Wong/Getty Images