On the morning of December 29, eight days before hundreds of Trump supporters and far-right extremists stormed the United States Capitol in arguably worst national attack on American democracy since the war Civilian, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows sent an email to the justice department chief.
It was a strange message for Donald Trump’s right-hand man to send to Acting US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, given that the material it contained was written entirely in Italian. He attached a letter to Trump from an Italian named Carlo Goria who said he worked for an American aerospace company, then regurgitated a conspiracy theory that was circulating known as “Italygate” .
Three days later, Meadows sent Rosen another email with a link to a 13-minute YouTube video titled “Brad Johnson: Rome, Satellites, Services, an Update.” In the video, Johnson, a retired CIA station chief, gave more details about Italygate, which he described as a secret plot to overthrow the US presidential election and prevent Trump from getting a second term. .
In Johnson’s account, an Italian defense contractor, Leonardo, had partnered with the CIA to carry out the vile plan. Together, they had hacked Italian military satellites, teleporting them to American voting machines in battlefield states and remotely passing votes from Trump to Joe Biden.
Rosen politely replied to Meadows that he had received the video, then sent a copy to his deputy Richard Donoghue. Later that day, Donoghue told his boss what he thought of Johnson’s video.
“Pure madness,” he said.
Meadows’ Italygate emails, highlighted in a 51 page report released this week by the House Select Committee’s inquiry into the capital’s insurgency, are some of the most memorable elements of his broad campaign to advance Trump’s big lie that the presidential election was rigged.
It’s not everyday that the Chief Assistant to Earth’s Most Powerful Person bombs the country’s top law enforcement official with spooky tales of vote-changing military satellites, written in Italian .
But this is only the beginning.
As the select committee sinks deeper and deeper into the murky waters of Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election, Meadows is quickly emerging as a figure of supreme interest.
Between election day of Nov. 3 and Jan. 6, when Trump’s exhortations to his supporters to derail Biden’s certification of victory culminated in violent scenes that left five dead and more than 140 law enforcement officers. order wounded, Meadows was a flurry of activity.
Not only was he frantically busy propagating Italygate and other conspiracy theories, not only was he trying to influence the actions of the Department of Justice in blatant violation of White House rules prohibiting such interference, but he was also in direct contact with the organizers of the January 6 rally that preceded the violence, and he was also there alongside his master when the insurgency on the U.S. Capitol erupted.
In short, Meadows is looming, in the from the Washington Post phrase, as “the chief enabler of a president who was desperate to retain power.”
This role has now brought Meadows into many legal issues. The far-right North Carolina Republican, who was one of Trump’s cheerleaders in Congress before being flown to the White House as the last chief of staff, first challenged a summons to appear before the select committee, then changed his mind after Steve Bannon, Trump’s former White House adviser, was indicted for a similar lack of cooperation.
Just over a week ago, he turned his back on his U-turn, announcing that he was no longer playing ball with congressional investigators after all. Some reports suggested his second change of mind was prompted by Trump’s furious reaction to what he had read in the Guardian.
The Guardian revealed that Meadows revealed in his new book, The Chief’s Chief, that Trump tested positive for Covid before taking the stage with Biden last September during the first presidential debate. This inconvenient truth had previously been kept a secret and conflicts with the official line peddled at the time.
On Tuesday, the entire House of Representatives voted for Meadows to despise Congress after he failed to show up for a deposition, returning the decision to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. He is facing a maximum penalty imprisonment for one year and a fine of up to $ 100,000 for each count he may be charged with.
Meadows’ renewed non-cooperation will make the work of the select committee more difficult, but he has already presented them with a treasure trove of documents that have spurred their investigation. It includes no less than 9,000 pages of recordings, including 2,000 SMS.
These texts are beginning to divulge golden nuggets of information that expose members of Trump’s inner circle as having been intimately involved in the push to cancel the election.
A text from a still anonymous congressman sent to Meadows on Jan.4 pleaded for the states of Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, which Biden had all won, to send alternative lists of Trump voters to Congress “and let it go âto the US Supreme Court for a ruling.
Jim Jordan, the former Ohio congressman-turned wrestler who was a close ally of Meadows in the right-wing House Freedom Caucus they co-founded, texted his friend a day before the insurgency describing a A plot in which Vice President Mike Pence could simply refuse to certify Biden’s victory, in blatant disregard of his constitutional duties.
The 38-page PowerPoint that detailed a plan for a Trump coup was also sent to Meadows, however. he denies have acted on the document.
As for the insurgency itself, the select committee said Meadows was in contact with at least some of the main organizers of the âStop the Stealâ rally on the morning of January 6 in which Trump called to its supporters to “fight like a devil”. Committee members were intrigued as to why the chief of staff chose to use his personal cell phone, as well as the Signal encrypted mobile app, to conduct these conversations.
When the violence erupted, Meadows continued to act as a communication hub alongside the President. The texts sent to him by Donald Trump Jr give a rare glimpse into the dynamics of the Trump family that would be worthy of a Roy family subplot in Succession.
As hundreds of Trump supporters forced their way into the Capitol building, attacking police officers in the process, Don Jr. desperately wanted to get his father a message. But he didn’t call dad, as you might expect.
Instead, he texted Meadows. “We need an oval address,” exclaimed the presidential son. âHe has to lead now. It went too far and got out of hand.
Similar urgent missives were issued on Meadows by several Fox News stars. Laura Ingraham, the far-right host of Ingraham Angle, told him, âHey Mark, the president needs to tell the people on Capitol Hill to go home. It hurts us all. He destroys his heritage.
Sean Hannity added his own appeal as a complainant: âCan he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol.
The plethora of texts addressed to Meadows by members of the Trump family, Fox News hosts and leading Republicans highlight important aspects of the Trump coterie in the hours leading up to, during and after the insurgency. Fox News hosts used language (“hey Mark”, “all of us”) suggesting that they considered themselves one of the inside team, rejecting any claim to journalistic integrity.
They were also boldly hypocritical. Shortly after sending Meadows his text on Trump “destroying his legacy”, Ingraham went on the air and spoke of “antifa sympathizers” having been “sprinkled in the crowd” on Capitol Hill.
The most critical lesson to be learned from the Meadows documents is that behind the scenes, in their private correspondence, Trump’s inner circle had no doubts about the nature and significance of the Capitol uprising. It was an outbreak of violence inspired and brought on by one man – Donald Trump – and only he could reverse it.
Meadows himself probably has some valuable ideas on this point. But at least for now, he doesn’t seem to want to share them.