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Trouble for Trump: Mark Meadows Talks
The indicted president’s ex-chief of staff is cooperating with the special counsel.
ON TUESDAY, NEWS BROKE that Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has been cooperating with Special Counsel Jack Smith in exchange for immunity from prosecution regarding any statements he made under oath. Meadows has reportedly spoken with Smith’s team at least three times, including once before a federal grand jury—the same body that indicted Trump in August on four counts: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy “to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate” people from exercising their constitutional “right to vote, and to have one’s vote counted.”
Meadows’s cooperation is significant for a number of reasons, including that he was at the heart of everything related to the Trump “Stop the Steal” effort, including the pressure campaign on Vice President Mike Pence and the fake electors scheme in several states. (Recall that Meadows is part of the Fulton County indictment for allegedly helping to set up the call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump pressed Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes . . . because we won the state.”) Let’s not forget, too, that Meadows’s own chief of staff, Cassidy Hutchinson, told the House January 6th Committee that Meadows burned documents in his office fireplace at least a dozen times between December 2020 and mid-January 2021. She also said he told staffers to keep certain Oval Office meetings a “close hold”—meaning off the books.
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Initially, Meadows turned over 2,319 text messages to the committee, including election-related exchanges involving Republican members of Congress, such a Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan; Fox News host Sean Hannity; Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas; and Trump’s children and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Meadows was also present during the infamous Oval Office meeting involving former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, “kraken” lawyer Sidney Powell (who just pleaded guilty in Georgia), and Rudy Giuliani. Among the ideas floated during that meeting were an executive order seizing voting machines and appointing Powell special counsel to investigate election fraud. Former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone was also present at the gathering, which reportedly erupted into a screaming match.
Not only is Meadows positioned to corroborate the astonishing testimony of credible witnesses like Hutchinson, but he can speak firsthand as to Trump’s knowledge and state of mind in all of this, which is obviously crucial to Smith’s criminal case against the ex-president. Meadows might also illuminate the involvement of other high-level officials whose participation in the criminal enterprise that produced the January 6th insurrection has yet to appear in any indictment.
Meadows is still in hot water in Georgia, having lost his bid to remove his portion of the racketeering case to federal court, and is undoubtedly pondering how to proceed now that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has secured a cascade of pleas. The latest of these was by lawyer Jenna Ellis, who tearfully told the judge this week that she wouldn’t have pushed the 2020 election lies on Trump’s behalf but for her reliance on the claims of more experienced lawyers. (Rudy Giuliani’s ears must have been burning.)
IT’S NOT LOOKING GOOD FOR TRUMP in either case—and that’s not even getting to the Mar-a-Lago classified documents indictment pending in federal court in Florida, the civil fraud trial now underway in Manhattan that will decide the fate of his business empire, and the New York criminal complaint that initiated the historic wave of “first” indictments against a former president.
Trump’s counsel is filing motions feverishly in what looks like a desperate bid to wipe away the criminal liability short of trial. Just this week, he filed four in the January 6th case:
a motion to dismiss the indictment on grounds that it violates Trump’s First Amendment right to freely speak on the National Mall before the insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, his Fifth Amendment right against double jeopardy because of his prior Senate impeachment trial, and his Fourteenth Amendment right to fair notice that his “forceful political advocacy” could one day be criminalized;
a motion to dismiss the indictment on grounds that Smith cannot prove “deceit and trickery” that would justify a charge of conspiracy because, again, he was merely engaged in political advocacy (among other arguments);
a motion to strike from the indictment any references to January 6th on the theory that the topic is prejudicial and inflammatory; and
a motion to dismiss the indictment for selective and vindictive prosecution because President Joe Biden allegedly “pressured DOJ to pursue the nakedly political indictments in this case months before the FBI had even opened an investigation.”
To use a technical legal term, this is mostly silly talk. The case is moving forward to trial.
As for Meadows, the latest reports are that by mid-December 2020, he privately informed Trump that Giuliani had no evidence to back up his election fraud claims. Of course this is not news to anybody who, say, followed the work of the House January 6th Committee. But for the Republican party—happy to have Trump as its 2024 frontrunner, and pleased to have installed an election denier as the new speaker of the House—facts like these still don’t matter.