There were weeks of discussions drumming up support for so-called election fraud claims. There was strategy and gaming-out of unconstitutional theory in support of a president who was willing to usurp the will of over 80 million voters in order to remain in the White House. And when the mob finally arrived—as incited—there was fear. Then, long after they left, there was talk of invoking martial law.
These are just shades of what was exposed Monday when CNN exclusively obtained and published a portion of some 2,319 text messages that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows turned over to the Jan. 6 committee before abruptly ending his cooperation last year.
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The messages stretch from Election Day through the inauguration of President Joe Biden and come from a wide cast of high-ranking White House officials as well as Trump’s closest family members, attorneys, and allies in and outside Washington.
There are heaps of messages from sitting Congress members and Trump’s reelection campaign staffers, too, as well as organizers who planned rallies for Jan. 6. in D.C.
Meadows is presently battling the committee to keep any further testimony and records hidden. And while the Justice Department idles on an indictment for Meadows following his criminal contempt of Congress referral from the House, the committee is aggressively pursuing access to key information through the courts—and airing out damning witness testimony it has received in the process.
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Election Day and through November
Before Monday’s dump of text messages, it was already established by the committee that Meadows was effectively ground zero for grievances about Trump’s defeat in 2020. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., just 48 hours after the election and as votes were still being counted, messaged Meadows: “We have operational control Total leverage. Moral High Ground POTUS must start 2nd term now.”
And it was already revealed that in the days right after the election others, like Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, flooded Meadows with texts. Though they privately sought guidance from the White House on how to promote Trump’s conspiracy theories and effectively overturn the election results, in public they acknowledged Biden as the rightful victor.
According to the new messages made public Monday, from Nov. 3 to Nov. 22, Meadows was fielding texts from people like Fox News personality Sean Hannity and American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp, husband to former Trump White House aide Mercedes Schlapp.
Hannity wanted Meadows to give him guidance about which states to discuss on air. Schlapp told Meadows to get “4 or 5 killers” to make the case in remaining battleground counties and states.
“Need outsiders who will torch the place. Local folks won't do it. Lawyers and operators. Get us in these states. Worried that ronna not in mi,” Schlapp wrote, appearing to refer to Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. [Text message punctuation and abbreviation original]
Meadows replied: “I may need you and Mercy to go to PA.”
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona also pitched Meadows right after the election, suggesting to Trump’s chief of staff that states’ legislatures should step in and appoint new electors.
“If I understand right most of those states have Republican Legislature's. It seems to be comport with glorified Bush as well as the Constitution. And, well highly controversial, it can't be much more controversial than the lunacy that were sitting out there now. And It would be pretty difficult because he would take governors and legislators with collective will and backbone to do that. Is anybody on the team researching and considering lobbying for that? [Spelling, grammar original]
Meadows was thrilled.
“I love it,” he wrote.
Before Thanksgiving, others like Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Trump spokesman Jason Miller shared their strategies and conspiracy theories. Perry, according to one text sent less than one week after the election, told Meadows that he had the “silver bullet” to prove fraud.
“Pam Bondi has seen and agrees,” Perry said.
Perry has denied sending the texts but CNN says they route back to his number and name.
It was revealed in 2016 that the Trump Foundation illegally donated $25,000 to a group that supported Bondi’s run for Florida Attorney General.
As for Jason Miller, he, like many others in Trump’s orbit, pumped Meadows with Soros-based conspiracies. Ginni Thomas, the Republican activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was also lighting up Meadows’s phone.
On Nov. 22, Thomas asked Meadows why it seemed that distance was being created between the Trump administration and Sidney Powell.
“She doesn’t have anything or at least she won’t share it if she does,” Meadows said of Powell.
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A frantic December
By December, Trump was enduring defeat repeatedly in the courts and, in reality, the doors to his pathway to victory had long slammed shut.
Meanwhile, meetings at the Willard Hotel with administration officials and attorneys like Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis were rolling, according to records and depositions already obtained by the committee.
One of the self-professed coordinators of those meetings, former New York Police Department Commissioner Bernie Kerik, told Meadows he was on the way from the battleground state of Michigan to Arizona on Dec. 1.
“We're going to need a hotel for the team and two vehicles to pick us up,” Kerik said.
It is unclear if Meadows responded.
That same day, Trump’s spokesman Schlapp sent a text saying he was prepared to walk the attorney general through the evidence.
Attorney General Bill Barr would resign two weeks later after a blowout with Trump over their divergent views on election fraud; Barr found none.
Interestingly, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, texted Meadows four days later with a link to a site fact-checking a presentation by Giuliani in Georgia suggesting, falsely, that suitcases were stuffed with bogus ballots at a Georgia polling center.
Kelli Ward, the Arizona GOP chairwoman, also sent Meadows semi-regular texts through December and purported to have the goods and sources of election fraud in her state. Ward told Meadows she reached out to Trump’s executive assistant with the proposals and a person in her state that could help advance their agenda.
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“I will call him,” Meadows wrote on Dec. 9.
Mere days before Christmas, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell also reached out in a rambling message, writing to Meadows that he heard talk of plans to seize voting machines.
“Everything Sidney has said is true!” Lindell wrote of attorney Sidney Powell’s voting machine conspiracy theory. “We have to get the machines and everything we already have proves the President won by millions of votes! I have read and not validated yet that you and others talked him out of seizing them... If true .. I pray it is part of a bigger plan... I am grateful that on the night of the election the algorithms of the corrupt machines broke and they realized our president would win in spite of the historical fraud!” Lindell wrote. [Emphasis original] “I look for deviations every day in my business ... when I find one I investigate relentlessly until I know why it happened and how it happened... ( this is my gift from God that has made my business so successful) From 11:15 pm on the night of the election I have spent all my time running impossible deviations and numbers from this election... I also was blessed to be able to get info and help Sidney Lin General Flynn and everyone else out there gathering all the massive evidence! I have been sickened by politicians ( especially republicans ) judges, the media not wanting to see the truth ( no matter what the truth would be!) This is the biggest cover up of one of the worst crimes in history! I have spent over a million$ to help uncover this fraud and used my platform so people can get the word not to give up! The people on both sides have to see the truth and when they do .... there will not be no civil war , people ( including politicians!) are fearing! The only thing any of us should fear is fear of the Lord! Every person on this planet needs to know the truth and see the evidence!!! Mark .. God has his hand in all of this and has put you on the front line... I will continue praying for you to have great wisdom and discernment! Blessings Mike”
“Thanks brother. Pray for a miracle,” Meadows responded.
Powell was sued for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems after claiming that the company used rigged machines manipulated by foreign entities. When pressed in court and facing high fines, Powell chalked up her own statements to opinion and said “reasonable people” would not accept what she said as fact. She lost the suit and was ordered to pay damages.
As for members of Congress, in December, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama called on Meadows for advice on how to handle press calling his office about the GOP’s strategy for Jan. 6.
“Does the White House want me to reply or be mum? Also, it is one thing to discuss (in general terms) our meeting beforehand. It is another to discuss afterwards. If you believe discussion is a positive, I suggest message should be: 1. Progress is being made. 2. More are joining our fight. 3. We can't allow voter fraud & election theft occur if we are going to be a republic. Your choice. Let me know,” Brooks wrote.
Energy Secretary Perry followed up on his texts to Meadows a few days after Brooks reached out, noting that time was running out until Jan. 6. There were just 25 days until inauguration, he noted.
“We gotta get going,” Perry wrote on Dec. 26.
Then, he urged Meadows to call “Clark” multiple times over the next two days, making a reference to Jeffrey Clark, Trump’s pick at the Department of Justice. Clark, according to testimony already provided to the committee, was preparing a scheme to oust the current leadership at the Justice Department at Trump’s behest.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia buzzed Meadows on New Year’s Eve.
“Good morning Mark, I'm here in DC. We have to get organized for the 6th. I would like to meet with Rudy Giuliani again. We didn't get to speak with him long. Also anyone who can help. We are getting a lot of members on board. And we need to lay out the best case for each state. I'll be over at CPI this afternoon,” she wrote.
As the nation careened toward the day Congress would meet to certify electors, Meadows was also at the fore of messages around the planning of the Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse.
In one message, Trump adviser Katrina Pierson appeared exasperated and worried about the event ahead.
On Jan. 2, she texted Meadows: “Good afternoon, would you mind giving me a call re: this Jan 6th event. Things have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction. Please.”
Tension was dogging the ranks of rally organizers at the time. ProPublica reported last summer that text messages it obtained indicated organizers knew threats of violence were possible on Jan. 6 and that local law enforcement would be taxed if things got out of hand. There was also the growing issue of more extreme right-wing allies and conspiracy theory peddlers who wanted in on Trump’s event at the Ellipse.
To keep the optics clean, Pierson reportedly led a plan to have certain speakers deemed “too extreme” to instead speak at events scheduled for Jan. 5. Alex Jones and ‘Stop the Steal’ rally organizer Ali Alexander would end up speaking to Trump’s supporters that night. Ali Alexander led a group of protesters that night in a chant of “Victory or death!”
Pierson and Women for America First chair Amy Kremer were in agreement over the decision but on Jan. 3, Pierson texted Meadows again and told him to “scratch” her earlier request for help.
“Caroline Wren has decided to move forward with the original psycho list. Apparently Dan Scavino approved??” Pierson wrote.
She added: “So I’m done. I can’t be part of embarrassing POTUS any further.”
A few days later, Jim Jordan texted Meadows.
It was 24 hours before certification and Jordan sent a message saying Pence, as president of the Senate, should object to votes he believed were unconstitutional.
Jordan has chalked up that message to a forward he sent from the inspector general at the Pentagon, Joseph Schmitz.
The message read:
”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. 'No legislative act,' wrote Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 78, 'contrary to the Constitution, can be valid.' 'The court in Hubbard v. Lowe reinforced this truth: ''That an unconstitutional statute is not a law at all is a proposition no longer open to discussion.' '226 F. 135, 137 (SDNY 1915), appeal dismissed, 242 U.S. 654 (1916). ' Following this rationale, an unconstitutionally appointed elector, like an unconstitutionally enacted statute, is no elector at all.
Meadows appeared to reply to Jordan on Jan. 6.
”I have pushed for this not sure it is going to happen,” he wrote.
As the mob breached the Capitol, according to the record published by CNN, a series of rapid-fire texts from lawmakers, officials, and media personalities alike flew into Meadows’s phone.
Rep. Greene of Georgia texted Meadows: “Mark I was just told there is an active shooter on the first floor of the Capitol Please tell the President to calm people This isn't the way to solve anything.”
A few weeks later, on Jan. 17, Greene would text Meadows again, this time telling him that after a “private chat with only Members,” the predominant belief they shared was that martial law should be invoked to stop Biden’s inauguration.
”In our private chat with only Members, several are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall law. I don't know on those things. I just wanted you to tell him. They stole this election. We all know. They will destroy our country next. Please tell him to declassify as much as possible so we can go after Biden and anyone else!” Greene wrote.
Two days later, on Jan. 19, Hannity was in despair. Biden would be inaugurated. And Mitch McConnell, then the Senate Majority Leader, was on the floor of the Senate saying the attack was “provoked by the president and other powerful people.”
“Well, this is as bad as this can get,” Hannity wrote.
Hundreds of police officers were brutalized during the Capitol assault and five people died.
According to The Washington Post, McConnell told Jonathan Martin, author of the book This Will Not Pass, that he was partially relieved about what Trump had wrought on the nation.
“I feel exhilarated by the fact that this fellow finally, totally discredited himself,” McConnell said.“He put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Couldn’t have happened at a better time.”