The more we learn, the worse it continues to get. The New York Times has now reported that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was even more active than known in the effort to push justifications for nullifying the voting totals that would remove Trump and his allies from power. Meadows was already known to be involved with Trump’s efforts to push Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes in the state that would overturn Joe Biden’s electoral win there. He was also, evidently, wedged deeply into Republican bids to push bizarre conspiracies rather than admit Trump’s loss.
The Times obtained emails in which Meadows repeatedly asked then-acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen to launch investigations into outright conspiracy theories being pushed by Trump allies.
“That included a fantastical theory that people in Italy had used military technology and satellites to remotely tamper with voting machines in the United States and switch votes” from Trump to Biden, reported the Times.
That is, for the history books, a thing that happened. A Republican White House chief of staff sent the administration’s attorney general a request that he immediately probe whether Italy had stolen the election with satellites; you can Mad-Libs any other nation and technology into that sentence and you would likely find some trash-strewn internet alley offering that, too, as reason the election was “stolen,” but this was the White House itself asking the Department of Justice to put a team on the case.
Rosen did not, evidently, take the bait. But the White House had good reason to think he might have played ball; as the Times notes in the same piece, Trump summoned Rosen to the White House only a day after Rosen was identified as William Barr’s new replacement. In that mid-December meeting, Trump himself pressured Rosen to appoint a special counsel to probe Dominion Voting Systems, which according to Trump propaganda was one of countless orchestrators of the conspiracies against him.
The White House acted with open corruption from the moment the vote totals began to come in. It would culminate in a White House-plotted, Trump-led January 6 “march” to sabotage the election’s certification directly, but at that point the White House had been working for weeks to throw out votes in Georgia, launch new government-led “investigations” meant to validate pro-Trump hoaxes, and delegitimize the very structure of our democracy rather than relinquish power.
It wasn’t just Trump. It was Mark Meadows doing that. It was other White House figures. It was Rudy, who had already worked for years as propaganda merchant. It was a large chunk of the House Republican caucus, a caucus that had for years condensed themselves into a hub of conspiracy promotion and defenders of maximal party-premised corruption.
We don’t know the full role of each player because, months after the violence, House and Senate Republicans have remained near-unanimous in objecting to any investigation of which persons played which roles; Sen. Mitch McConnell deemed it worth asking senators to block such a probe as personal “favor.” Anyone still mystified as to why Republican lawmakers are so intent on blocking such investigations is gullible beyond words.
As an aside, it’s worth considering how similar Mark Meadows’ behavior here was to the players in a past Trump scandal—in fact, the past Trump scandal that saw him impeached the first time. As Trump and his top strategists settled on Joe Biden as the most likely and most dangerous Democratic presidential contender, hoax operations spun up that claimed a Russian foe, Ukraine, to be the true actors behind the 2016 election meddling campaign that U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously identified as the work of Russia. New hoaxes formed to assert that a Biden son was somehow connected; a top Republican turned goon for hire, Rudy Giuliani, worked feverishly to push whatever claims he could from whatever peddlers he could muster. The endpoint was a pressure campaign mounted to force the Ukrainian government to acknowledge an “investigation” into the Trump-pushed, Republican-orchestrated anti-Biden conspiracy; toward this end, Trump and his Cabinet officials engineered an illegal hold on military aid to the nation until its government complied.
The goal, then, was for Ukraine to “announce” an investigation into Biden family dealings. There was no demand as to how broad the investigation would be or whether it would exist at all, except in name. The demand was that Ukraine announce an investigation.
Fast forward to last December and to the Trump White House’s actions, we see something conspicuously similar. Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was “repeatedly” pushing the Justice Department to investigate Republican-generated conspiracy theories. Trump himself was demanding an investigation into new mortal enemy, a voting machine company that Republicans were claiming, on television, had sabotaged the election so that Trump would lose. The notion of Italy using “satellites” to somehow rig U.S. voting machines is almost performatively asinine—but Meadows wanted an official investigation.
The goal was to have “investigations” that Trump and his allies could point to. That the results would show no Italian satellite hacking was irrelevant; the point was that the “investigation” be announced, as means of legitimizing the pro-Trump hoaxes. They didn’t need to be legitimized very much. Sowing doubt that could be used by Trump’s team, Republican officers, and Republican lawmakers as justification for erasing any state’s vote totals was all that was required.
It was roughly the same thing, then. Trump’s allies produce ridiculous sounding propaganda; Trump and his top officials pressure for official government recognition of the Trump-peddled hoax, so as to make it sound more plausible; whether the push brazenly crosses the line between legitimate governing and using government as partisan tool makes no difference.
So at the very least, Mark Meadows needs to have his behind hauled into a chair, any chair, that comes with an attached oath to tell the truth of what he knows of White House efforts to call the election results into question. The full story likely involves more actors than we know, and it is very clear that the White House itself was taking steps to falsely undermine the election’s results for many weeks before the January 6 culmination.