The House Select Committee on Jan. 6 has issued a subpoena to retired Army Col. James “Phil” Waldron, directing him to appear before the committee and testify to his role in creating a presentation on how Republicans could subvert the 2020 election, as well as his work with Trump’s legal team in spreading election lies from state to state.
“Mr. Waldron reportedly claimed to have visited the White House on multiple occasions after the election, spoken to Mark Meadows ‘maybe 8 to 10 times,’ and briefed several members of Congress on election fraud theories. He also publicly acknowledged contributing to the creation of a PowerPoint presentation that was given to, or described for, Republican Members of Congress on the eve of January 6th. According to reporting, he also participated in meetings at the Willard Hotel in early January 2021.”
The information that’s been made available by the select committee over the last two weeks has filled in gaps, tied together information that previously seemed disconnected, and provided a very different view of what happened to create the insurgency on Jan. 6. What originally seemed like a collection of flailing efforts being pursued by Trump’s legal team, by White House advisers, and by Republicans in Congress, has been revealed as a much more unified effort—one single coup scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election by simply refusing the count the votes from states where Joe Biden won.
One big feature of that plan was a 38-page presentation which was briefed to Republican members of Congress by Waldron. According to Waldron, that presentation was assembled by a large number of people—though he has so far refused to name them—and was pitched both to Congress and the White House. When that presentation first surfaced among the emails of former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ emails, his attorney treated the PowerPoint as if it was just something that had floated past Meadows with little notice. But recent statements from Waldron indicate that far from just seeing the presentation in email, he discussed the scheme directly with Meadows, who offered assistance in moving the plot forward.
We don’t know who helped Waldron create the presentation. We don’t know which members of Congress sat in on his “how to take down your government” instructions. We don’t know which members of the White House staff worked with Waldron, or what help he got from Meadows. But maybe we’re going to find out.
As someone who was never a member of Trump’s staff, it seems unlikely that Waldron will toss up the “executive privilege” smokescreen currently being deployed by Meadows and others in order to delay their appearance before the committee. Though, as a non-attorney member of Trump’s outside legal team, it’s possible he could claim some kind of protection as a legal adviser. Except, of course, even the broadest idea of such a privilege doesn’t extend to briefing members of Congress, Republican donors, and miscellaneous GOP insiders.
Waldron has no grounds for refusing to testify—other than the Fifth Amendment. Which just about everyone in Trump’s circle appears to be rediscovering in the last two weeks.
According to The Washington Post, Waldron’s appearance might help fill in some of the information the committee wanted from Meadows. Meadows has now been held in contempt by the full House, though the Department of Justice has not yet signaled if they will pursue a criminal indictment as they are currently doing with Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Waldron has said he met with White House officials eight to ten times, That includes at least one meeting with Meadows, who reportedly asked Waldron, “What do you need? What would help?”
It’s clear that Meadows was much more familiar with and involved in the scheme fronted by Waldron than his attorney indicated. It’s also clear that this scheme overlapped with the plan that attorney John Eastman put forward adding a supposed legal justification to why former Vice President Mike Pence could refuse to count Biden votes. There also seem to be strong ties to Jeffery Clark’s efforts to reorganize the Justice Department to support Trump’s plan, and a lawsuit from Rep. Louie Gohmert to place additional pressure on Pence.
As more communications come forward, it’s clear that none of these efforts were happening in a vacuum. They weren’t disconnected plans of individuals. They were all part of one big, overarching conspiracy.
Waldron called the presentation he made a “huge team effort.” It’s going to be fascinating to discover who was on that team.