WASHINGTON—Documents and e-mails which Mark Meadows, Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, provided to the House panel probing the January 6th insurrection and invasion of the U.S. Capitol—an invasion to produce a pro-Trump coup—show Trump’s involvement in planning the strategy to try to overturn his 2020 defeat and keep himself in the Oval Office, if not planning the insurrection itself.
One peak of Trump’s involvement was on Dec. 18, 2020, the House Select Committee probing the insurrection told its colleagues in a 51-page report recommending Congress vote to hold Meadows in contempt—a citation which, if prosecution is successful, could land him in jail for six months to a year. The vote was scheduled for Dec. 14.
“Meadows participated in a meeting” last Dec. 18 “with Mr. Trump, the White House counsel, an attorney associated with the campaign, White House staff, and private citizens, on proposals relating to challenging the 2020 election results,” the report says.
“During the meeting, participants reportedly discussed purported foreign interference in the election, seizing voting machines, invoking certain federal laws like the National Emergencies Act, and appointing one of the attendees”—it doesn’t say whom—“as a special counsel with a top secret security clearance to investigate fraud in the election.
“White House officials, including Mr. Meadows, may have resisted some of the proposals, but, at one point, Mr. Trump reportedly said: ‘You [White House] guys are offering me nothing. These guys are at least offering me a chance. They’re saying they have the evidence. Why not try this?’”
Later, Meadows was in touch with at least one January 6th leader.
Meadows turned over some 8,000 pieces of evidence, including documents, text messages, and e-mails, to the bipartisan House Select Committee investigating the insurrection, its planning, and the Capitol’s defense—or lack of it. But Meadows has now reversed course and refused to testify about the documents or the run-up to the invasion, even though he’s discussed it publicly in a new book and on Trump’s mouthpiece, Fox News.
That reversal has led to the contempt citation, scheduled for a Dec. 14 House vote.
Following what his lawyer says are instructions from his former boss, Trump, Meadows now claims “executive privilege” covers all the communications, even those with private citizens, regarding the election.
The panel’s report to the House drolly notes that not only has Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration said executive privilege does not cover either former officials or private citizens—such as Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Trump confidante Steve Bannon—but that Trump himself has never, to the committee, formally claimed privilege.
“Meadows is uniquely situated to provide critical information about the events of January 6, 2021, as well as efforts taken by public officials and private individuals to spread the message of widespread fraud in the November 2020 election and to delay or prevent the peaceful transfer of power,” the panel said in introducing its 51-page report to lawmakers several days before the vote.
Other key findings so far, from Meadows’s documents and e-mails, include:
- Trump held a conference call with 300 state and federal officials on January 2nd, four days before the insurrection, to discuss how to overturn Electoral College results certifying Biden as the 2020 winner in key states. The states were unnamed. Meadows was on the call.
- Meadows knew the insurrection was coming. He talked with at least one organizer of it beforehand, who called him and said “‘[t]hings have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction. Please.’’
- Meadows traveled to Georgia, a key swing state, before Trump’s infamous phone call to its GOP Secretary of State, Brad Raffensberger, about the election. In the call, Trump demanded Raffensberger find enough votes—about 12,000—to produce a one-vote Trump win. Before that, Meadows went to Georgia “to inspect a county audit” there, the documents show.
The committee did not identify the county, but Georgia Republicans, hewing to Trump’s “stolen election” mantra, repeatedly raised lies about “fraud” in Fulton and DeKalb Counties, the two counties that share Atlanta and its large Black population.
“In the call” with Raffensberger, which Meadows and a Trump campaign attorney joined, “Trump pressed his unsupported claims of widespread election fraud, including claims related to deceased people voting, forged signatures, out-of-state voters, shredded ballots, triple-counted ballots, Dominion voting machines, and suitcase ballots, before telling the Secretary of State he wanted to find enough votes to ensure his victory.
- Meadows sent a memo which a Trump campaign lawyer drafted, showing how then-Vice President Mike Pence could “delay or decline the counting of (electoral) votes from certain states,” to Pence’s staff.
- “Meadows sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said the National Guard would be present to ‘protect pro-Trump people’ and that many more
- would be available on standby.”
While the panel’s report does not mention it, the guard was not called to the Capitol for hours after the insurrection started. Accounts vary about why.
Prior witnesses to other congressional committees testified the D.C. Guard, unlike those in the states, is under direct presidential control and Trump sat on his hands as Pence and lawmakers pleaded with him, by phone, to stop the invasion. Pence, by then in hiding from the insurrectionists, finally made the call to activate the guard.
Other witnesses pin the responsibility for not calling the guard out earlier on the Pentagon or on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), who did not want a rerun of guard involvement with civilians, after troops were called out earlier in the year to clear peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters—shadowed by violent white nationalists—from Lafayette Park prior to an infamous Trump photo-op.
- “Meadows forwarded claims of election fraud to the acting leadership of DOJ (Justice Department) for further investigation, some of which he may have received using a private email account and at least one of which he had received directly from people associated with Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign.”
The report did not name the campaign operatives. In the next paragraph, though, the committee identifies a key DOJ official, Jeffrey Clark, as willing to become Acting Attorney General at Trump’s command, and carry out his orders to find election “fraud.”
Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.