New text messages obtained by CNN on Monday have exposed new depths to former President Donald Trump’s push to overturn the 2020 election and, more specifically, the involvement of his chief of staff Mark Meadows to meet that end.
The messages unearthed Monday were sent to Meadows by Phil Waldron, a retired U.S. Army colonel who became one of Trump’s most ardent peddlers of voter-fraud conspiracy theory ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Waldron was responsible for circulating a PowerPoint presentation to numerous lawmakers in Washington recommending that Trump declare a national emergency over the so-called “fraud” in order to stay in power. He also reportedly helped write a draft executive order to seize voting machines. That executive order was never formally issued.
According to CNN, Waldron texted Meadows just two days before Christmas in 2020. He was frustrated that a judge in Arizona had tossed a lawsuit calling on state officials to seize voting machines there.
To Waldron’s mind, the ruling was dangerous because it gave Trump’s opponents too much time to oppose them.
The state of Arizona, Waldron wrote to Meadows on Dec. 23, was the “lead domino we were counting on to start the cascade.”
When Donald Trump lost the election to now-President Joe Biden both popularly and by way of the Electoral College, the former president and several of his closest allies, advisers, and attorneys had their eyes focused on seven battleground states including Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Trump insisted that his losses there were due to widespread voter fraud. As the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation and a subsequent mountain of court filings from Trump’s advisers like overturn architect John Eastman have shown, there was no voter fraud on a wide scale—but it didn’t stop the Trump White House from trying to suggest otherwise.
Passing off bogus and unsanctioned pro-Trump electors to Congress was critical to getting the overturn scheme off the ground.
When Waldron lamented the court loss in Arizona to Meadows on Dec. 23, Trump’s then-chief of staff commiserated.
“Pathetic,” Meadows wrote.
Waldron has said publicly that he “contributed” to the 40-page proposal to seize voting machines entitled “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN.” And he’s admitted to sharing the proposal with lawmakers in Congress before the Capitol attack.
He’s also not made much of a secret of his proximity to Trump insiders like Meadows. As noted by the government watchdog American Oversight (who helped CNN obtain the new records released Monday), Waldron told reporters in 2021 that he spoke to Meadows at least eight to 10 times after the election. He also said he went to the White House for visits, as well.
Before the text to Meadows on Dec. 23, Waldron had spent weeks asking Republican state legislators if he could show them “evidence” of voter fraud. He also offered legislators the chance to let him analyze their results.
One of Waldron’s most well-known reviews of “fraud” was one he launched in Antrim County, Michigan. That assessment ended up being widely panned and completely debunked.
But on Dec. 28, 2020, the newly obtained text messages show Waldron was undeterred by the loss in Arizona. There was data coming in from multiple counties, he wrote to Meadows.
Waldron dubbed the “irregularities” the “Southern steal” by Democrats.
Meadows responded to the Dec. 28 text: “OK.”
The former chief of staff’s replies may be succinct, but they also underline something important: Meadows responded to Waldron, meaning he had awareness of the push to overturn the election results after the safe harbor deadline for Congress.
Waldron’s testimony has recently been demanded by a grand jury in Georgia examining Trump’s push to reverse election results there. Meadows has also been asked to testify in that state’s investigation.
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