Mark Meadows’s on-again, off-again relationship with the Jan. 6 committee has been something to behold. First the former Trump chief of staff was defying his subpoena. Then Steve Bannon got indicted for the same thing, with the committee threatening to put Meadows on a similar path. Then Meadows cooperated at least somewhat. Then he reportedly irritated Trump with disclosures in his new book and (whether it was related or not) soon pulled out of a scheduled deposition.
But not, it has become increasingly clear, before he turned over some juicy stuff. And not just juicy stuff, but stuff that plenty of Trump allies won’t love to see turned over. If Meadows demonstrated loose lips in his book, he apparently hasn’t kicked the habit.
As the Jan. 6 committee voted to hold Meadows in contempt Monday night, one of its two Republicans, Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), read aloud some texts that Meadows had received and sent on Jan. 6. They include Fox News personalities arguing to Meadows that the scenes were hurting what they clearly viewed as a common cause and that Trump wasn’t doing enough to stop them. They also, remarkably, included the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., rebuking his own father for insufficient steps to quell the violence.
One big takeaway is that it speaks to just how many Trump loyalists recognized how bad both this and Trump’s response were in real time. It also contradicts myriad later efforts to revise the history of the Capitol riot and to deflect blame from Trump (including as early as that evening, in the cases of some of the same Fox hosts). The other big one is that it suggests Meadows was indeed cooperating to a significant degree.
The texts, as relayed by Cheney, are below. The Washington Post has asked Cheney’s office when each of the texts were sent; that information wasn’t available as of publication.
Trump Jr. to Meadows: “He’s got to condemn this … ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough.”
There’s the president’s own son, apparently recognizing his father’s shortcomings in quelling the violence. (The “Capitol Police tweet” refers to a tweet Trump sent at 2:38 p.m. saying: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” Trump would tweet at 3:13 p.m., “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful,” and add a video at 4:17 p.m. urging people to go home — but telling them they were “special” and suggesting they were legitimately inflamed.)
Meadows to Trump Jr.: “I’m pushing it hard. I agree.”
“I’m pushing it hard” is not what you say when your message is being heard and Trump is on the case. This certainly seems to reinforce what’s already been evident: that Trump didn’t want to call off his supporters.
Trump Jr. to Meadows: “We need an Oval address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
In case it wasn’t clear how bad Trump Jr. thought the response from his father was.
Fox host Laura Ingraham to Meadows: “Hey Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”
The “hurting all of us” line is notable — in that it suggests a violent insurrection was a political liability in their joint effort. Perhaps this was considered a way to appeal to Trump and his advisers. But even then, Ingraham on her show that night said nothing about this destroying Trump’s legacy, nor did she judge the president harshly. Instead, she suggested that antifa was involved (a claim for which there’s still no evidence), said Trump’s stolen-election claims were not settled and downplayed the number of people involved — before being corrected by none other than House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Ingraham text 2 Meadows on 1/6 (per Cheney):— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) December 14, 2021
“[Trump] needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy."
Ingraham that night:
-Leads w/ antifa
-Suggests it was just 3 dozen ppl (McCarthy corrects her) pic.twitter.com/144lUoFdB7
Fox host Brian Kilmeade to Meadows: “Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished.”
Neither did Kilmeade say anything of this sort on his prime-time platform that night. What he did say: “I think this is a culmination. This is a culmination of four years of them denying the president won the election, claiming that Russians flip votes, this is four years of investigation, and there was four years now of a very frustrated electorate, 75 million that voted. They feel that they haven’t had their day in court, let alone lost in court.”
Several members of Congress and administration officials also texted Meadows with similar messages, according to Cheney. Here’s how she summarized it:
Members of Congress, the press and others wrote to Mark Meadows as the attack was underway.One text Mr. Meadows received said, quote, “We are under siege here at the Capitol.”Another, quote, “They have breached the Capitol.”In a third: “Mark, protesters are literally storming the Capitol. Breaking windows on doors. Rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?”A fourth: “There’s an armed standoff at the House Chamber door.”And another, from someone inside the Capitol: “We are all helpless.”Dozens of texts, including from Trump administration officials, urged immediate action by the president.Quote, “POTUS has to come out firmly and tell the protesters to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed.”In another: “Mark, he needs to stop this now.”A third, in all caps: “TELL THEM TO GO HOME.”A fourth: “POTUS needs to calm this ... down.”
Update: Some of these texts were from Punchbowl News reporter Jake Sherman, he disclosed Tuesday morning.
Cheney did not disclose who those members of Congress and administration officials were. But it’s known to the Jan. 6 committee. And if Meadows’s play was truly to slow-roll the committee, these aren’t exactly the text messages you’d be most apt to turn over.
He’s clearly given the committee plenty to mine — and given plenty of allies plenty of headaches.