On Monday, Rep. Liz Cheney shared with the US House of Representatives texts sent by high-profile Trump supporters on the day of the Capitol Hill riot to Trump’s chief-of-staff, Mark Meadows, urging a presidential intervention.
Senior Fox News figures such as Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, and the president’s own son, Donald Trump, Jr, privately leaned on Meadows to relay their concerns over the unfolding violence, the cellphone messages indicated. They were revealed during a House hearing investigating the riot and Donald Trump’s alleged role in it.
How the communications became public
Meadows is one of the people who was subpoenaed by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 events. He initially agreed to cooperate, but later lawyered up and refused to testify.
On Monday, the nine-member body dominated by Democrats convened to vote on a proposal to refer the former White House official to the Department of Justice for criminal contempt of Congress. The motion received unanimous support.
The messages were read out by the committee’s vice chair, Liz Cheney, and formed part of her argument that Meadows was in no position to refuse to testify before the body. The lawmakers obtained them from Meadows himself, when he was still cooperating with the investigation. The communications were not protected by any privilege, Cheney said. The committee is seeking to obtain additional privileged documents and personal testimonies from Meadows.
What did people want from Meadows and Trump?
They were calling for a public address to ask that pro-Trump protesters leave Capitol Hill, according to the texts read out by Cheney. Meadows had received “dozens of texts, including from Trump administration officials,” urging him to take immediate action, she said.
Some of the texts had apparently been sent from the federal legislature building itself, and described the urgency of the situation:
“We are under siege up here at the Capitol.”
“Mark, protestors are literally storming the Capitol. Breaking windows on doors. Rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?”
“POTUS has to come out firmly and tell protestors to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed.”
“TELL THEM TO GO HOME.”
Others were sent by anchors at Fox News. Laura Ingraham wrote, as cited by Cheney: “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”
Sean Hannity wrote: “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol.”
Some even came from the president’s own family. Donald Trump, Jr. texted: “He’s got to condemn this [shit] ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough.” Meadows responded: “I’m pushing it hard. I agree.”
What was the aim in sharing the texts?
Cheney, a Republican and a vocal critic of the former president, argued that the exchanges constituted “further evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty” during the January 6 riot.
She suggested Trump’s slowness in publicly calling on the protesters to leave may have amounted to him corruptly seeking to “obstruct or impede Congress officials proceeding to count electoral votes.”
“Mark Meadows’ testimony is necessary to inform our legislative judgments,” she added.
Speaking during the same hearing, Chairman Bennie G. Thompson blasted Meadows for his refusal to cooperate with the committee despite releasing a book describing the January 6 events and engaging in multiple media appearances to promote it. “He has no credible excuse for stonewalling the Select Committee’s investigation,” the Democrat said.
What is Meadows’ position?
Before Monday’s session, Meadows’ attorney asked the committee to reconsider their intention to refer his client for criminal prosecution for contempt of Congress, based on a “good-faith invocation of executive privilege and testimonial immunity.”
“A referral of a senior presidential aide would also be unwise because it would do great damage to the institution of the Presidency, as restraint in the application of the statute over time attests,” George Terwilliger III wrote in a letter.
The attorney stated that Meadows’ refusal of a deposition was due to his legal obligations as a former Trump staffer. He argued that the civil lawsuit that Meadows had filed against the investigators should first be allowed to run its course.