Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was inundated with texts from members of Congress, Fox News hosts, and even Donald Trump Jr as the Capitol riot unfolded urging the top aide to spur Donald Trump to action.
The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack revealed text messages received by Mr Meadows during the riot on Monday as it unanimously moved to support a contempt of Congress charge for Mr Meadows, who ceased cooperation with the panel after turning over the texts.
In the texts, lawmakers and Capitol Hill reporters described an “armed standoff” outside the door to the floor of the House of Representatives, while the president’s eldest son and longtime campaign surrogate pleaded with Mr Meadows: “He’s got to condemn this s*** ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough.
"He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand,” added Mr Trump Jr.
Mr Meadows reportedly responded to the president’s son, writing in agreement: “I’m pushing it hard.”
The texts differed quite significantly from the supportive facade Mr Trump’s eldest son maintained on social media on January 6 and in the days following, where he continued retweeting stories in support of his father’s White House term while not issuing any remarks on Twitter or Facebook about the riot, which was dominating headlines at the time.
Fox News hosts, seen as some of Mr Trump’s biggest backers in the media during the 2020 election, were equally despondent as they urged the White House aide to convince his boss to do something. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair, read aloud their texts, Mr Trump Jr’s , and others during her statement to the committee in support of a contempt referral.
“The president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy,” read Fox anchor Laura Ingraham’s text, read by Ms Cheney. Sean Hannity, one of Mr Trump’s favourite Fox hosts, added: “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol?”
At the hearing on Monday, lawmakers berated Mr Meadows repeatedly for ceasing his cooperation seemingly at random while discussing much of his experiences in a memoir, The Chief’s Chief, which was published last week.
“Mark Meadows has committed a crime. In this case, a premeditated one,” said Rep Adam Kinzinger, one of the committee’s two GOP members.
Texts to Mr Meadows from lawmakers and journalists were among those read aloud at Monday’s hearing.
“POTUS needs to calm this s*** down," one read.
“There’s an armed standoff at the House chamber door,” another read, identified as authorred by Puncbowl News’s Jake Sherman. That text was apparently referring to the scene that unfolded at the Speaker’s Lobby where rioter Ashli Babbitt was shot and killed while trying to breach a security line.
“We are all helpless,” read a third text, underscoring the fear that many lawmakers, staff and journalists felt as they huddled in secure areas away from an angry mob calling for violence against specific people including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence.
The former White House chief of staff will now see his fate head to the full House for a vote, which will likely pass in the same fashion that a previous referral to the Justice Department for contempt did in the case of Steve Bannon, Mr Trump’s close ally and the former head of Breitbart News.
If found guilty following action from the Justice Department on the referral from Congress, Mr Meadows could face up to a year in jail and a hefty fine. Mr Bannon was officially indicted by a grand jury shortly after his referral made it to the agency.
Mr Trump’s response to the violence at the Capitol is one of many aspects of the January 6 attack being examined by the House select committee. Lawmakers have loudly questioned why it took so long for order to be restored in the House and Senate after protesters overwhelmed Capitol Police barricades around the building, especially given that the National Guard as well as law enforcement agencies from Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC were dispatched to help.
Some news sources have reported, despite Mr Trump’s own insistence, that the president hesitated to deploy the DC chapter of the National Guard to the scene, indicating that it was Mr Pence working with the White House counsel that actually approved the deployment.
Blame has also been pointed at the former head of US Capitol Police as well as the former House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, all three of whom announced their resignations after the attack. News reports have detailed the requests for aid by beleaguered Capitol Police officers and leadership during the attack, as well as apparent resistance from the heads of security in the House and Senate to request National Guard reinforcements.
The first National Guard troops arrived on scene at the US Capitol after 5pm on January 6, hours after the riot first began and it was clear that Capitol Police had lost control of the situation. Several Capitol Police officers died in the wake of the attack in the hours, days and weeks afterwards.
Despite the loss of life, Mr Trump has continued to press forward with his false claims about widespread voter fraud, election shenanigans and foreign interference in the 2020 election unabated as President Joe Biden gets through the first year of his presidency. Whether there will be any real, tangible repercussions for anyone who organised rallies or spread the falsehoods that inspired the riot remains an uncertain yet urgent question as Republicans look poised to make serious gains in the 2022 midterm elections and have the potential to take the House, likely ending the committee’s investigation.
Mr Trump himself also appears poised to run for the White House again in 2024 with his dominance over the GOP intact and a massive campaign war chest for which he and his allies have continued to fundraise since nearly the moment he departed Washington in January.
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