Mark Meadows' texts reveal what the White House knew about the danger in the Capitol on Jan. 6. Here's what they said.
The congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol ramped up its pressure on a key member of former President Donald Trump's inner circle this week – all while revealing more about the chaos that unfolded that day.
The House approved a resolution Tuesday asking that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows be charged with contempt of Congress after he refused to testify before the committee, citing executive privilege.
The leadup to the vote brought a flood of public revelations about text messages Meadows shared with the committee, shedding new light on what the White House knew about the danger in the Capitol as rioters tried to stop Congress from counting electoral votes.
After months of negotiating, Meadows provided the documents in response to the committee’s subpoena but decided not to testify, citing Trump’s claim of executive privilege. His attorney said the committee had made testifying 'untenable.'
Absent his testimony, committee members began reading aloud messages Meadows exchanged with Republicans in Congress, offering Americans a look at the concerns expressed by Trump allies, conservative media pundits, GOP lawmakers and even Trump's son as an angry mob attacked the Capitol.
The committee said the communications raised new questions they needed to ask Meadows, and put a fine point on their need for his testimony.
“Clearly Mr. Meadows has important information about events that culminated in the violent attack on the Capitol and on our democracy. He must follow the law,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said on the House floor during a debate about the contempt resolution. “He must cooperate with the select committee’s lawful request. No one is above the law.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., called the texts "nothing short of a bombshell" on Tuesday, hours before the House would vote to hold him in contempt.
The Justice Department will now decide whether to charge Meadows. His lawyer knocked lawmakers for revealing the messages while pursuing a contempt citation against him.
“As the House prepares to act on the Select Committee’s recommendation, perhaps Members will consider how the Select Committee’s true intentions in dealing with Mr. Meadows have been revealed when it accuses him of contempt citing the very documents his cooperation has produced,” Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger, said as the House weighed contempt. “What message does that duplicity send to him as well as to others who might be inclined to consider cooperating in good faith to the extent possible?”
Here's some of what the Jan. 6 committee revealed about Meadows' communications on and leading up to the attack on the Capitol.
Days before Jan. 6, Meadows texts show discussion of overturning election
Weeks after losing the election, and having failed to overturn it in the courts and in a number of states, Trump directed his attention to Jan. 6.
Congress would meet then to count the Electoral College votes to mark Joe Biden's victory.
In the days leading up to the counting of electoral votes, Meadows exchanged messages about ways to overturn the election. In one, a member of Congress acknowledged Republican-controlled state legislatures sending alternate slates of electors would be “highly controversial.” Meadows responded “I love it,” according to a 51-page report outlining what Meadows had provided the committee.
One of Trump’s closest allies in Congress, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, forwarded Meadows a text message on Jan. 5 laying out a case for Vice President Mike Pence rejecting electoral votes in some states.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., read a truncated portion of that message during a committee hearing this week, attributing it to an unnamed member of Congress. But a Jordan spokesman later confirmed to various news outlets that the text came from the Ohio Republican.
Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., read a message on the House floor on Tuesday about efforts to overturn the election.
“He thinks the legislatures have the power but the VP has power too,” Meadows wrote in a Jan. 3 message.
Aguilar said he believed Meadows was referring to Trump and that the message, where he writes about the president’s thinking, illustrated “why his privilege claims are so outrageous.”
“We’d like to ask Mr. Meadows about that, about what the former president thought,” Aguilar said. “Days before the violent attack Mr. Meadows was willing to share what he, President Trump, thinks, but he won’t tell us.”
'It will make a lot of patriots happy'
As Jan. 6 drew near, word of a shift at the top of the Justice Department drew applause in Meadows' text app.
Trump had planned to appoint Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general during his final days in office, when then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen did not pursue his unfounded claims about voter fraud. He eventually dropped the plan.
The committee’s report said Meadows introduced Trump to Clark, who the report said asked to be installed as acting attorney general and suggested the Justice Department send letters to state officials to appoint alternate slates of electors to overturn the election.
While debating on the House floor whether to hold Meadows in contempt, Schiff pointed to a Jan. 3 message from an unknown caller praising the White House for its employ of Clark.
“I heard Jeff Clark is getting put in on Monday,” the message said. “That’s amazing, it will make a lot of patriots happy and I’m personally so proud that you are at the tip of the spear and that I can call you a friend.”
The committee also has referred Clark for criminal contempt of Congress over his refusal to cooperate.
Schiff dismissed Meadows’ claim of privilege in that Tuesday speech, saying he has spoken about the same issues the committee seeks to question him about in text messages, emails and his book.
“The inconsistency, the hypocrisy, grabs you by the neck, and so does his contempt of Congress,” he said.
Protecting 'pro Trump people'
After days of promoting a big rally near the White House, Jan. 6 had arrived and thousands gathered near the White House to hear the president speak.
Trump finished his speech on the Ellipse at around 1:10 p.m., telling those in attendance "if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore" before sending them off to the Capitol via Pennsylvania Avenue.
At the Capitol, rioters overwhelmed security, busted out windows and ransacked offices.
Some chanted for Pence to be hanged.
The committee’s report said Meadows provided guidance to an organizer of the rally in a text message exchange after the organizer told him things “have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction. Please.”
In one email, Meadows said the National Guard would be present to “protect pro Trump people,” with more on standby, according to the report.
Fox News anchors pleaded for Trump to stop riot
As the chaos unfolded, Meadows also received texts from some of Trump's most vocal supporters that said he needed to step in and stop the mob.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., read messages she said came to Meadows from Fox News anchors imploring the White House to act and from Trump administration officials.
In one, an unnamed person told Meadows: "POTUS has to come out firmly and tell the protesters to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed."
Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade and Sean Hannity all reached out to Meadows while the chaos occurred.
“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy,” Ingraham wrote in a message to Meadows.
Punchbowl News founder Jake Sherman said in a tweet that he sent some of the text messages Cheney read at a committee hearing this week, including one where he said the Capitol was under siege.
"We're all helpless," Sherman said from inside the building in his final message to Meadows.
Cheney said Trump’s son sent Meadows a message telling him his father should condemn the riot, and Meadows responded that he agreed and was "pushing it hard."
“We need an Oval Office address. He has to lead now,” Donald Trump Jr. said in his message to Meadows. “It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
Four people died at the riot, and a Capitol Police officer died the next day after suffering a stroke. At 2:44 p.m., shots were fired in the House chamber, and later authorities identified Ashli Babbit as having been shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer.
Trump eventually told protesters to go home. At about 4:17 p.m., he posted a video to his Twitter account urging them to stop while repeating baseless claims about a stolen election.
"These text messages leave no doubt the White House knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol," Cheney said during the Monday meeting of the Jan. 6 committee.
Bart Jansen and Amy Nakamura contributed to this report.