On Monday evening, the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 released some of the texts it had collected in which people were desperately trying to connect with former chief of staff Mark Meadows as the assault on the Capitol was underway. The texts included Republicans members of Congress, Fox News pundits, and even Donald Trump Jr. all begging for the same thing: for Meadows to get Donald Trump on television so he could tell his supporters to stop the violence. That didn’t happen.
Meadows has refused to appear and provide testimony to the select committee. After putting on a pretense of cooperation after subpoenas were initially issued three months ago, Meadows continually reduced the scope of what he would agree to discuss. As of last week, Meadows had made it clear he would neither show up nor hand over most requested documents. The former congressman and White House chief of staff is now all but certain to join Steve Bannon in facing a charge of contempt. That charge passed the select committee unanimously, and the full House is expected to vote on Tuesday.
That vote could be especially interesting considering that part of documents Meadows is refusing to provide the committee includes over 1,000 texts, many of them with members of Congress. However, the texts and documents Meadows has produced are already producing a picture of what happened at the White House from the election to the day of the insurgency. And none of it is pretty.
Whether Meadows, Bannon, or any of the other members of Trump’s inner circle ever take the stand, it’s increasingly clear that the information already collected by the select committee is absolutely damning. From coup plot to fallout, the steps in Trump’s scheme to illegally hold onto power are coming into sharp focus. So are the roles of Meadows, Republicans in Congress, the right-wing media, and militant white supremacists.
In fact, the biggest question remaining may be why all of this is getting so little attention in the media.
Among the texts released by the committee were several from Fox News hosts who were watching the events of Jan. 6 with concern about how it was affecting their brand.
Laura Ingraham: “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us.”
Brian Kilmeade: “Please, get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished.”
Sean Hannity: “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol?”
Perhaps the strangest of the tweets released may have come from Donald Trump Jr. Just the idea that he reached out to Meadows, rather than trying to talk to his own father, says … something that’s both sad and bizarre.
Donald Trump Jr: “He’s got to condemn this shit AsAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough.”
Meadows: “I’m pushing it hard. I agree.”
Trump Jr.: “We need an Oval Office address. He has to leave now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
The texts released also include one from an unnamed member of Congress calling on then-Vice President Mike Pence to "call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all." This fits with the other documents that have been produced and released by the committee detailing the ways in which Republicans—both inside and outside the White House—plotted to overturn the results of the election.
Last week, the select committee wrote a letter to Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger. This letter discussed some of the documents that Meadows had been willing to produce, and some that he was unwilling to hand over. Included in that selection was an email written immediately after the election in which members of Trump’s staff discuss means of appointing “alternate slates of electors” in what was described as a “direct and collateral attack” on the election outcome.
It also included a 38-page Powerpoint presentation that detailed ways in which Pence could refuse to recognize electors supporting Joe Biden, allowing him to declare Trump the “winner” either by counting only some of the states, or by seating alternate slates of electors.
Meadows’ attorney claimed that Meadows had little knowledge of this document. However, this document was “being briefed on the Hill at the time," meaning that the coup plan discussed in detail in the presentation was being given to Republican congressmen. The author of that Powerpoint has also stated that he met directly with Meadows in the White House and spoke with Trump’s chief of staff “maybe eight to 10 times.” All of which shows that, far from being just an email that passed through Meadows’ inbox, he was directly involved in the details of this plan.
As of Tuesday morning, the coup plan had failed to appear on the front page of any major newspaper despite the detailed instructions for overturning the election, the apparent wide spread of this briefing to Republican members of Congress, or its discussion within the White House.
Much of the information in the coup Powerpoint overlaps with the plan put forward by Trump attorney John Eastman, who met with Trump, Meadows, and Pence in an attempt to convince Pence to go along with overturning the election.
Any appearance from Meadows before the committee is still likely to be months—and many court hearings—away. Some analysts have suggested that Meadows’ indication that he could invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination could complicate the Justice Department’s willingness to bring a charge of criminal contempt.