Once the smoke had cleared from the January 6 Trump-inspired insurrection at the Capitol building, the question of the hour became, “Who was in on it?” A review of more than 2,300 text messages obtained by CNN from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows leaves one asking, “Who wasn’t?”
As the mayhem unfolded on 1/6, the texts to and from these Trump loyalists began to sound like they were all watching an adult film for the first time: “Golly, I didn’t think it would end like that!” Ersatz innocence in the digital age. It is altogether laughable and terrifying in equal measure.
The list of text correspondents who contacted or were contacted by Meadows in the days before, during and after the attack includes Donald Trump Jr., Mick Mulvaney, Sean Hannity, Reince Priebus, Hope Hicks, Ivanka Trump, Matt Schlapp, Jason Miller, Jared Kushner, Bill Stepien, Dan Scavino, Rick Perry, Brad Raffensperger, Ginni Thomas, Bernie Kerik, Katrina Pierson, Mike Lindell, Kelli Ward, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Rep. Mo Brooks, Rep. Andy Biggs, Rep. Scott Perry, Rep. Brian Babin, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. Barry Loudermilk, Rep. William Timmons, Rep. Andrew Clyde and Sen. Ted Cruz.
The tone of looming menace in many of the pre-riot messages is hard to miss. One text sent on 11/4 by Matt Schlapp, who made his bones by organizing the “Brooks Brother’s Riot” in Florida during the 2000 recount, sounds as if he was all ready to leap back into that role: “Pls get 4 or 5 killers in remaining counts. Need outsiders who will torch the place.”
Trump senior adviser Jason Miller on 11/13: “Emailed you Dominion backgrounder. Lots there re: functionality problems, not much there on Dem/Soros conspiracy connections.”
Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, on 11/22: “Trying to understand the Sidney Powell distancing…”
Mike “Pillow Guy” Lindell on 12/20: “Everything Sidney has said is true! We have to get the machines and everything we already have proves the President won by millions of votes! I have read and not validated yet that you and others talked him out of seizing them…. If true … I pray it is part of a bigger plan…”
Rep. Scott Perry on 12/26: “Mark, you should call Jeff [Clark]. I just got off the phone with him and he explained to me why the principal deputy won’t work especially with the FBI. They will view it as as not having the authority to enforce what needs to be done.”
Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson on 1/2/2021: “Good afternoon, would you mind giving me a call re: this Jan 6th event. Things have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction. Please”
Rep. Jim Jordan on 1/5/2021, the day before the riot: “On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all — in accordance with guidance from founding father Alexander Hamilton and judicial precedence.”
And then the shit hit the fan.
Mick Mulvaney, 1/6: “Mark: he needs to stop this, now. Can I do anything to help?”
Rep. Barry Loudermilk, 1/6: “It’s really bad up here on the hill.”
Rep. William Timmons, 1/6: “The president needs to stop this ASAP”
Donald Trump Jr., 1/6: “He’s got to condem this shit. Asap. The captiol police tweet is not enough. This his one you go to the mattresses on. They will try to fuck his entire legacy on this if it gets worse.”
Reince Priebus, 1/6: “TELL THEM TO GO HOME !!!”
Because these people are what they are, the instinct to fight back even if their only weapon is a rubber wrench is a defining attribute. Beginning with Jason Miller and then followed up by Greene and Gohmert, the closing hours of 1/6 saw the formulation of the laughable “It was Antifa!” pushback plan right there in Meadows’s text feed:
MILLER: “Call me crazy, but ideas for two tweets from POTUS: 1) Bad apples, likely ANTIFA or other crazed leftists, infiltrated today’s peaceful protest over the fraudulent vote count. Violence is never acceptable! MAGA supporters embrace our police and the rule of law and should leave the Capitol now! 2) The fake news media who encouraged this summer’s violent and radical riots are now trying to blame peaceful and innocent MAGA supporters for violent actions.”
GREENE: “Mark we do’n’t think these attackers are our people. We think they are Antifa. Dressed like Trump supporters.
GOHMERT: “Cap Police told me last night they’d been warned that today there’d be a lot of Antifa dressed in red Trump shirts & hats & would likely get violent. Good that Trump denounces violence but could add & well demand justice for those who became violent & well get to the bottom of what group they’re with.”
Few messages within the Meadows tranche are more disturbing than one from Greene, dated 1/17/21: “In our private chat with only Members, several are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall law. I don’t know on those things. I just wanted you to tell him. They stole this election. We all know. They will destroy our country next. Please tell him to declassify as much as possible so we can go after Biden and anyone else!”
The term, for the record, is “martial law.” It means the military takes over the country under the command of the president, who would be Trump for the next 14 days.
Of course, you cannot have such grim darkness without a tiny dollop of humor. On 1/19, Sean Hannity texted Meadows a Twitter video link of Mitch McConnell denouncing the 1/6 attack: “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”
Hannity’s one-line commentary: “Well this is as bad as this can get.”
No, Sean, “as bad as this can get” will arrive when this calamity graduates to public hearings in Congress, hopefully over a long hot summer.
Don’t miss your chance to give for #GivingTuesday!
Millions of people are supporting nonprofits like Truthout for #GivingTuesday. Will you join them?
As an independent newsroom, Truthout relies on reader donations to remain online. Your tax-deductible donation of any amount — even a few bucks! — helps make it possible for us to publish award-winning journalism that amplifies the voices of changemakers everywhere.