ASHEVILLE — Mark Meadows, former chief of staff to President Donald Trump and former congressman from western North Carolina, said he knew it was illegal for Vice President Mike Pence to shut down the electoral certification, despite the president pushing Pence to do so and inflaming a crowd chanting for the vice president’s death.
This was according to the third day of testimony from the Jan. 6 congressional special committee, June 16, which provided new information about Meadows’ role before and during the insurgency.
Speaking under oath in a pre-recorded video, former Pence chief of staff Marc Short said Meadows understood that Pence’s role was only ceremonial, although Meadows changed his position several times. time.
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“I think Mark had told so many people so many different things,” Short said.
Meadows chief of staff Ben Williamson, also appearing in a pre-recorded video, said Meadows went to speak to Trump shortly before the president’s tweet that led to rioters calling for Pence’s lynching.
West Carolina University political science professor Todd Collins said Meadows’ actions could have been an attempt to navigate between hard-line conspiracy theorists and Republicans calling for an end to falsehoods. allegations of voter fraud and illegal conspiracy to stop certification.
“He may have ‘read the room’ on how to react or maybe weighing all the options to stay in power,” Collins said.
Williamson, who is still a spokesperson for Meadows, responded to Citizen Times emailed questions on June 17, saying he and Meadows declined to comment. Questions included whether Meadows would change his mind and testify before the committee whose next hearing is June 21 and what he told the president shortly before Trump’s inflammatory tweet.
Meadows was elected in 2012 to the 11th District seat covering most of WNC and part of Asheville. He resigned in 2020 to work as Trump’s top aide. During and after the 2020 election, he frequently raised the prospect of voter fraud, casting doubt on Joe Biden’s victory. But Meadows is now facing a voter fraud investigation from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation after records showed him voting using the address of a county trailer. of Macon where he seems never to have stayed.
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After the formation of the House Select Committee to investigate the attack on the Capitol, Meadows turned over thousands of texts, but then stopped cooperating and refused to testify. The House voted to hold him in contempt of Congress, but the Justice Department declined to prosecute.
However, the texts and the testimonies placed him at the center of the investigation. At the June 16 hearing, Short was asked if Meadows supported Trump’s plan — deemed illegal by prominent conservative and former federal appeals court judge Michael Luttig — to void the election by asking to Pence to reject voters from states that voted for Biden or delay certification so recounts could be conducted despite no evidence of problems.
Here is an exerpt :
Member of the committee: “You have repeatedly made it clear to Mr. Meadows that you and the Vice President had a different view of his authority on January 6.”
Short: “I believe I did.”
Employee : “Did Mr. Meadows ever explicitly or tacitly agree with you or say ‘Yeah, that makes sense’ or ‘OK’?”
Short: “I believe Mark agreed.”
Employee : “What makes you say that?”
Short: “I believe that’s what he told me. But as I mentioned, I think Mark had told so many people so many different things that it wasn’t something I would accept. necessarily like” OK. Well, that means it’s solved. “”
Employee : “Tell me more about what he told you about it.”
Short: “I think it’s that, you know, the vice president doesn’t have a larger role. And I think he understood that.”
Employee : “So despite the fact that he may have said other things to the president or others, he told you that he understood that the vice president had no role.”
Employee : “He told you that several times?”
Short: “Two to three times.”
Employee : “Before January 6?
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But even though Trump’s chief of staff said he knew the plan was illegal, Trump continued to call on Pence to act, doing so in speeches, tweets and phone calls, according to testimony heard.
On January 6, aides and the president’s family gathered at the White House where they witnessed Trump supporters fighting with police and raping the Capitol.
Williamson, in his testimony, said he and other senior advisers decided someone should ask the president to calm the situation. He texted his Meadows boss saying “I would recommend that POTUS post a tweet about respecting the police on Capitol Hill – getting a little hairy there”
Williamson said he then went to Meadows and verbally repeated what he said in the script.
“As I recall, he immediately got up and left his desk,” he said, as Meadows walked over to where the president was in the Oval Office.
But as it became apparent to Trump that Pence would not interfere with the certification, he did not send a calming message. Instead, at 2:24 p.m., he tweeted “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what was necessary.”
Rioters inside and outside the Capitol surged according to evidence from the hearings, claiming Pence betrayed them and chanting “hang Mike Pence.” A makeshift gallows had been erected nearby.
The Secret Service rushed Pence away from his Senate office within 40 feet of rioters before arriving at an underground location, according to hearing information.
A bipartisan Senate report said seven people died in the attack, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sitnick, who died of a stroke after fighting the crowd, and the rioter Ashli Babbitt, shot dead by police as he tried to enter the Chamber of the House.
Collins, the WCU professor, said in the third and previous hearings, an image of Meadows developed “as a central point of contact for those outside the White House to try to send messages to President Trump, especially in text messages that have been posted.
“Some of them were encouragement/ideas to fight the election results, some were voices of moderation, while others implored Meadows to take action to quell the Jan 6 rioters.”
Meadows’ brief responses to those texts, revealed by the committee, suggest he may have “read the room”, Collins said, and tried to play both sides.
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As to whether the hearings revealed evidence of criminal action on Meadows’ part, Collins said what had been shown so far did not provide “irrefutable proof”, although there was evidence. other upcoming committee proceedings and recent stories of the former leader destroying documents following a meeting with GOP Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania a few weeks after Election Day 2020.
“He may have suspected what was going to happen during the march on Capitol Hill, but that may not be enough for a criminal conviction,” Collins said. “If more evidence comes to light that Meadows may have burned government documents, it could lead to public evidence/document destruction issues, which could more likely lead to serious consequences.”
Joel Burgess has lived at the WNC for over 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Do you have any advice? Contact Burgess at firstname.lastname@example.org, 828-713-1095 or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Help support this kind of journalism by subscribing to the Citizen Times.
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