Every time the January 6 committee holds a hearing, it seems clearer and clearer that Donald Trump was trying to keep control over the government after losing reelection. The past week alone produced the “how to coup” PowerPoint, widely circulated in Trumpworld, and a slew of text messages, including this sorry we weren’t able to pull off a coup note from an unidentified lawmaker to Mark Meadows: “Yesterday was a terrible day. We tried everything we could in our objection to the 6 states. I’m sorry nothing worked.” It’s pretty clear what Trump was up to: trying to reinstall himself as president and end American democracy as we know it.
Trump’s crew surely knew how bad the events of January 6 were even as they were unfolding. “The president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home … he is destroying his legacy,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham wrote to Mark Meadows in a text message read by Republican Representative Liz Cheney during the opening statements of the Jan 6 committee meeting on Monday night. A range of journalists sent similar messages. Actual reporter Jake Sherman—who had been stuck in the Capitol during the riot, and who released his texts with Meadows “out of transparency”—wrote, “Do something for us. We are under siege in the [Capitol].” Another “journalist” exchanging texts with Meadows at the time: Fox propagandist Sean Hannity, who wrote, “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol.”
Meadows himself turned over a huge tranche of texts and emails to the committee before he decided he no longer wanted to testify. That he’s currently promoting his book about Trump rather undercuts the claim in his excuse for backing out of the testimony— reflected in his new lawsuit, against the January 6 committee and Nancy Pelosi—that his service to the ex-president requires rigorous confidentiality. California Representative Adam Schiff noted that it’s “very possible that by discussing the events of Jan. 6 in his book … he’s waiving any claim of privilege.” The House is now seeking to charge him with contempt.
The book itself, The Chief’s Chief, is quite a puzzling artifact. Kirkus called it a “Trump idolator’s dream book,” but Meadows also slipped up and revealed some extremely damaging information—for example, that Trump tested positive for the coronavirus before the first debate with Joe Biden (though he did, according to Meadows, take a second test, which was negative). “The story of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News,” Trump responded. “In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate.”
Only two Republicans voted to hold Meadows in contempt. The rest of the House GOP apparently decided it’s fine that he’s refusing to participate in an investigation led by the very legislative body to which they belong. Meanwhile, the desperate texts that Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade wrote to Mark Meadows, urging Trump to try and stop the riot, are just a bizarre footnote to the narrative Fox News has cemented in its viewers’ minds: that rooting for authoritarianism is simply how you support your team.