Newly revealed text messages between then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and congressional Republicans including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene cast a renewed spotlight Monday on communication between the Trump White House and allies determined to overturn the results of the 2020 election or stoke chaos in its aftermath.
But it was unclear whether that would happen. Such a move would mark a change of course for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack by a pro-Trump mob, which until now has opted not to use such tactics against members of Congress.
“I think it will prompt a fresh look by the committee and by the world at what consequences these members should face, and that includes in Congress,” said Norm Eisen, who served as counsel for the House managers in then-President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial. “That could include an effort to seek their testimony or have them appear at hearings. It could take the form of filing an ethics complaint and having hearings in that committee. Certainly censure or other forms of congressional discipline are a question. But this is not normal.”
Greene (R-Ga.) texted Meadows on Jan. 17, 2021, that some members of Congress were calling for Trump to impose martial law to remain in power, according to text messages Meadows recently provided to the committee.
“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,” Greene texted Meadows, misspelling the word “martial.” “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!”
The Washington Post has confirmed the exchanges involving Greene but has not independently verified other texts reported by CNN. Greene did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The new communications, along with testimony included in a 248-page court filing released last week, deepen the public record of the interaction between Republican lawmakers and Trump’s White House as he and his allies pushed to overturn the results of the election.
Trump has repeatedly made false claims that the election was stolen, rhetoric that many Republican allies have echoed.
It’s unlikely that House and Senate Republican lawmakers who were loyal to Trump and his cause will voluntarily appear before the committee, as most GOP members have sought to discredit the committee’s work.
The committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack requested that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) appear before the panel earlier this year, but they have so far refused. Unlike the way it has handled other recalcitrant witnesses, the committee has not taken more aggressive measures against fellow members of Congress who refuse to comply with the requests.
The committee’s reluctance to subpoena GOP lawmakers stems from a variety of issues, including time constraints — a complex and lengthy legal fight could last beyond the November midterm elections — along with fears of retribution in the likely case that Republicans win back the House majority in November.
“We are as a committee discussing a lot of aspects of the investigation,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace last week, dodging the question of whether she supports subpoenaing members of Congress who have been asked to appear before the committee but have refused to do so. The committee did not comment.
Meadows’s communications with more than 40 current and former Republican members of Congress reflect the extent to which false claims of voter fraud and conspiracy theories permeated the Republican Party in the aftermath of the election. In some instances, Meadows acknowledged receipt of messages voicing support for Trump and thanked the sender, according to CNN.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) was one of the first lawmakers to get in touch with Meadows soon after Election Day with a proposal to reverse Trump’s fortunes. On Nov. 6, 2020, according to CNN, he texted of a plan to “encourage the state legislatures to appoint a look doors in the various states where there’s been shenanigans,” with “look doors” possibly a typo for “electors.”
In another exchange obtained by CNN, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) texted a group thread that included Meadows and other members of Congress on Dec. 21, 2020, about whether to share his “formulation of our January 6 strategies” with the media.
“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 texted.
Biggs, Brooks, Meadows and Perry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On that same day, some members of Congress attended a meeting, according to a court filing released last week, where Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, advocated for preventing a joint session of Congress from convening and confirming Joe Biden’s victory by having Pence unilaterally reject electors from battleground states that voted for Biden.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a top White House aide to Meadows, named Jordan, Perry and Greene as among those members who were closely involved in the effort to overturn the 2020 election early in the process, according to a released excerpt of her testimony.
“Good morning Mark, I’m here in DC. We have to get organized for the 6th,” Greene texted Meadows on Dec. 31, 2020, according to the newly released communications. “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.”
Text messages between Perry and Meadows, according to the court filing, showed Perry lobbying Meadows to replace Justice Department leadership with Jeffrey Clark, an agency official receptive to Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.
“Mark, just checking in as time continues to count down. 11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration,” Perry texted Meadows on Dec. 26, 2020. “We gotta get going!”
“Mark, you should call Jeff,” Perry texted that same day. “I just got off the phone with him and he explained to me why the principal deputy won’t work especially with the FBI. They will view it as as [sic] not having the authority to enforce what needs to be done.”
“I got it,” Meadows replied. “I think I understand. Let me work on the deputy position.”
When Perry followed up two days later to see if Meadows contacted Clark, Meadows did not appear to respond.
Eisen said the texts speak volumes: “It’s clear that the Mo Brooks and Scott Perrys of the world went far beyond the normal cooperation that one expects between a president and members of his party in Congress and really approaches the verge of serious liability, whether civil or even criminal.”
Hutchinson also told investigators that members of Congress were present during meetings in December 2020 when Trump’s White House counsel expressed the opinion that the plan to have alternate electors meet and cast votes for Trump in states he had lost was not a legally sound one.
Meadows’s communications with Greene on the day of the Capitol attack have also come under scrutiny by the Jan. 6 panel. According to the newly released texts, Greene that day quickly pivoted from urging the White House to call off the rioters to making baseless claims that left-wing extremists were responsible for the violence.
“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,” Greene reportedly texted Meadows at 2:28 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2021.
Less than an hour and a half later, at 3:52 p.m., Greene texted Meadows again: “Mark we don’t think these attackers are our people. We think they are Antifa. Dressed like Trump supporters.”
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testified last March that no evidence had emerged that “anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to antifa” had been involved in the attack on the Capitol.
Matthew Brown contributed to this report.