What we’ve learned from the Meadows documents
It’s been almost one year since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. But this week proved there are still significant pieces of the puzzle the public does not know about the horrific, deadly event and the days leading up to it.
The special House committee investigating Jan. 6 revealed the existence of a PowerPoint presentation, shared among former President Trump’s team, that laid out strategies for keeping the 45th president in power, including having him declare a national security emergency and having former Vice President Mike Pence halt Congress’s certification of President Biden’s victory.
The Jan. 6 panel also disclosed a flurry of text messages sent by key Republicans to Trump’s ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows begging him to convince the president to call off the violent mob of his supporters.
The twin bombshell developments suggest that the Jan. 6 committee — comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans — has only begun to scratch the surface in its investigation into the planning and root causes of the insurrection, why reinforcements were not quickly dispatched once the violence began, and security breakdowns at the Capitol.
Here are some key takeaways from what we learned this week.
Waldron could help fill in the gaps
Subpoenaed this week was a man otherwise not on the radar of many: a retired U.S. Army colonel and distillery owner who helped distribute a PowerPoint on plans for Jan. 6 and who briefed lawmakers on the plans for the day.
The committee on Thursday demanded testimony from Phil Waldron, who was among those present at the Willard Hotel “war room” for the Trump campaign and appeared to play a key role in pushing forward the strategy to contest the election.
Among the details released in the committee’s contempt report for Meadows is a reference to a Jan. 5 email regarding a 38-page PowerPoint titled “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN.”
It’s a document Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the Jan. 6 panel, this week called “an alarming blueprint for overturning a nationwide election.”
According to the committee, the PowerPoint was meant to be provided “on the hill” ahead of Congress’s certification of the election results. It recommended a briefing for lawmakers on baseless claims of foreign interference in the election and other countries’ alleged control over voting machines.
The title alone relays the extent to which the Trump team was preparing a number of scenarios for contesting the election, while Meadows’s receipt suggests it may have been reviewed at some of the highest levels of the White House.
The PowerPoint starts with false claims of “irregularities” in the election, calling for “injections” that could be used for “fixing the vote.”
It lays out options for Pence to reject state electors or seat Republican ones in states where “fraud occurred” as well as delay certification of the results to allow for a supposed recount.
It also calls on U.S. Marshals to secure ballots, while the National Guard would be responsible for recounting them.
Among the recommendations in the PowerPoint were for Trump to declare a national emergency and say that “electronic voting in all states” was “invalid.”
That detail corresponds with another line of inquiry by the committee, which subpoenaed former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn as well as Trump’s top two officials at the Department of Homeland Security following a White House meeting to discuss plans to “seize” voting machines and equipment.
Waldron told The Washington Post that he spoke to Meadows “maybe eight to 10 times” but said he did not email the PowerPoint directly to Meadows.
He did, however, acknowledge that he briefed several members of Congress on the plan during a Jan. 5 meeting in a congressional office but declined to name the other participants.
Waldron was working alongside John Eastman, also subpoenaed by the committee, who crafted the memo laying out options for contesting the election, including having Pence buck his ceremonial duties of certifying the election results.
While Eastman plans to plead the Fifth, Waldron’s extensive and revealing interview with the Post suggest he may be more talkative than some others subpoenaed by the committee.
Text messages show it was a two-way street
The committee this week also released numerous text messages sent to Meadows to suggest the plan laid out by the Trump campaign and those such as Eastman and Waldron not only resonated with Republicans but left them encouraging the White House to follow through.
Numerous text messages sent to Meadows show ideas about how to block the election were flowing from Trump’s inner circle to Capitol Hill and the GOP back to the White House as they mulled how to undermine Biden’s victory.
“On Jan. 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,” said one GOP lawmaker later confirmed to be Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
Jordan’s office confirmed that he sent the text but said it was forwarded from a lawyer he was corresponding with and not drafted by Jordan directly.
“Mr. Jordan forwarded the text to Mr. Meadows, and Mr. Meadows certainly knew that it was a forward,” said Jordan spokesman Russell Dye.
While Jordan’s office suggests it was not an endorsement of the plan, the text still leaves a sitting member of Congress relaying encouragement to White House officials to pressure Pence to buck his ceremonial duties to certify the election.
Another text the committee attributes to a lawmaker also called for interference in several states where Trump fell short.
“HERE’s an AGRESSIVE (sic) STRATEGY: Why can t (sic) the states of GA NC PENN and other R controlled state houses declare this is BS (where conflicts and election not called that night) and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS,” read the text to Meadows.
CNN has since reported that the text was not from a lawmaker but from former Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
After the riot, another text from a GOP lawmaker to Meadows lamented that the plans to contest the election were not ultimately successful.
“Yesterday was a terrible day,” one unidentified GOP lawmaker wrote. “We tried everything we could in our objection to the 6 states. I’m sorry nothing worked.”
GOP publicly downplayed attack while privately panicking
For the better part of a year, prominent conservative allies have followed Trump’s lead and downplayed the violent rioters who attacked police officers with bear spray, flag poles and baseball bats. They’ve been described as “peaceful patriots,” normal tourists and victims.
But as mayhem and violence erupted that January day, text messages show a trio of popular Fox News personalities, GOP lawmakers and even Donald Trump Jr. were frantically trying to reach the president — through Meadows — to have him stop the attack and send his supporters home.
“He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP,” the president’s eldest son texted Meadows as the attack unfolded on live TV. “It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
“Fix this now,” one GOP lawmaker texted Meadows. “It’s really bad up here on the hill,” a second unidentified GOP lawmaker told Trump’s chief.
“Mark, president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy,” Fox host Laura Ingraham told Meadows.
“Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished,” added her colleague Brian Kilmeade.
The desperate pleas from Trump allies revealed how shocked and alarmed they were by the violent siege, how they recognized the political damage it could do to Trump’s legacy, and how they seemed to believe that Trump alone had the power to stop the attack and order his loyal supporters to go home.
“All urged the president to take action because they understood that the president of the United States had a responsibility to call off the mob,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), vice chairwoman of the Jan. 6 panel, said in a floor speech. “Hours passed, despite this, without any action by the president.”
–Updated on Dec. 19 at 5:53 a.m.
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