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A trove of text messages sent and received by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is shedding new light on efforts by former President Donald Trump’s inner circle, confidants and Republicans in Congress to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
CNN reported Monday that it had obtained 2,319 text messages that Meadows had provided to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. The text messages, which were sent or received between Election Day 2020 and Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, include exchanges with administration and campaign officials, Trump’s family, Fox News hosts and more than 40 current or former Republican lawmakers, among others. They place Meadows at the center of a campaign to promote baseless conspiracy theories about a stolen election and to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s electoral victory.
Included in the texts are numerous exchanges that took place on Jan. 6 as the riot carried out by Trump’s supporters was broadcast on television screens nationwide. In frantic messages, a number of Republicans implored Meadows to compel the president to do something about the violence while others insisted that the rioters were not actually Trump supporters but members of antifa.
"It's really bad up here on the hill,” read one message sent by Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., on Jan. 6. “They have breached the Capitol.”
“POTUS is engaging,” Meadows replied.
The texts reported by CNN also show that Meadows was in contact with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Election Day, apparently giving him marching orders on what to tell his audience. “Stress every vote matters. Get out and vote,” Meadows texted Hannity.
“Yes sir,” Hannity replied.
On Nov. 19 and Dec. 5, Meadows reportedly sent messages to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom Trump had tried to pressure into overturning his state’s election results. He also responded to texts from Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and an attendee of the Jan. 6 rally, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, one of the most prominent promoters of the election conspiracy theories. The texts included discussions about whether then-Vice President Mike Pence would stick with Trump and throw out election results that the president claimed were illegitimate.
On Jan. 5, Meadows received a text from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. "On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all — in accordance with guidance from founding father Alexander Hamilton and judicial precedence,” Jordan wrote.
The next morning, Meadows texted Jordan, "I have pushed for this. Not sure it is going to happen."
There are also a number of messages from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., including one from Jan. 17 in which she appears to endorse the idea of Trump declaring martial law rather than allow a transition of power to Biden.
Greene tells Meadows that she had been in contact with some fellow representatives who “are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall [sic] law,” adding that “They [Democrats] stole this election. We all know. They will destroy our country next.” Greene is currently facing a lawsuit in Georgia that could leave her name off the ballot this fall for her role in the events of Jan. 6.
The CNN report revealing the texts to and from Meadows followed the release of texts earlier this month showing Meadows discussing potential legal actions with Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, aimed at overturning the election results.
The House Jan. 6 committee has accused Meadows of continuing to withhold crucial information about his role in the events leading up to, during and after Jan. 6. According to a court filing released by the committee on Friday, in addition to the 2,319 text messages, which were handed over in December, Meadows’s attorney provided the panel with a privilege log “showing that Mr. Meadows was withholding over 1,000 text messages from his personal cell phone based on claims of executive, marital, and attorney-client privileges.”
After initially agreeing to cooperate with the panel last fall, Meadows reversed course in December, refusing to appear for a deposition and filing a lawsuit to block the committee’s subpoenas. In response, the select committee voted to refer him for criminal contempt of Congress. Though the referral was passed by the House of Representatives in December, the Justice Department has not yet said whether it will pursue criminal charges.
In its recent filing with the Department of Justice, the select committee requested a summary judgment rejecting Meadows’s claims of privilege, noting that President Biden has chosen to waive executive privilege for records relevant to the investigation, including those specifically requested from Meadows. Trump’s attempts to block Biden from waiving privilege have been blocked by a U.S. District Court judge, a federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court, the filing notes.
The recent request for summary judgment notes that the select committee’s investigation “has progressed significantly” since it first issued a subpoena to Meadows in September and highlights previously undisclosed details obtained from interviews and depositions with “dozens of witnesses who interacted directly with Mr. Meadows, either in the White House or in connection with the Trump campaign to overturn the 2020 election.” In one such detail, Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson told congressional investigators that the chief of staff had been warned about the potential for violence by Trump supporters at the Capitol ahead of Jan. 6.
In a statement issued with the filing on Friday, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the Jan. 6 committee's chairman, and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the committee’s vice chair, urged the court to “reject Mark Meadows’s baseless claims and put an end to his obstruction of our investigation.”
“Mr. Meadows is hiding behind broad claims of executive privilege even though much of the information we’re seeking couldn’t possibly be covered by privilege and courts have rejected similar claims because the committee’s interest in getting to the truth is so compelling,” Thompson and Cheney said in the statement. “It’s essential that the American people fully understand Mr. Meadows’s role in events before, on, and after January 6th. His attempt to use the courts to cover up that information must come to an end.”