It is hard in this highly-polarized country for both sides to come to an agreement. Former President Trump’s Chief of Staff and former member of the House of Representatives Mark Meadows hit the daily double by getting both sides mad at him. It took a lot of talent for Meadows to get himself in this predicament. Meadows was asked to provide documents and testimony to the January 6 House Select Committee. His initial approach, which I believe was the correct approach, was to cooperate.
He provided the committee with a considerable number of documents. He may not have given all the documents that the committee wanted, but he gave them enough so he would not be subject to any sanctions. The next step was to show up at the place they requested. If he showed up and answered most of the questions it would have been a win. Even if he might not have a legitimate reason for not answering some questions, by answering most of them, he would have been shielded from any sanctions. Then he could have argued to the Trumpians that he answered as few questions as he thought he legally could.
Then excerpts of his book came out, which upset Trump. Meadows, in trying to placate Trump, decided to switch strategies and not show up for his deposition before the committee. It was a longshot that the committee would let Meadows get away with not testifying. The problem for Meadows was that the horse has left the barn. It is hard to refuse to answer questions about documents that you produced on grounds of privilege, assuming that there would be a privilege claim. If there was a legitimate privilege claim, then the documents should have not been produced. To add to Meadows’s woes is that his book mentions private discussions and information concerning his interactions with Trump. It is hard to claim executive privilege when you publish a book about conduct one could claim would fall within the privilege.
The committee was understandably upset with Meadows’ tactics and held him in contempt of Congress and a referral was sent to the Justice Department. Meadows was not the first person who ran away from testifying before the committee. Steven Bannon refused, and a criminal prosecution has commenced against him. Meadows may have figured that his newly-found recalcitrance would have put him back in the good graces with the Trumpians. He was mistaken because they are upset that he provided a treasure trove of documents, some of which were reported this week and because portions of his book place Trump in an unflattering light. Meadows is not the first Trump favorite who ended up being a loser in Trump’s eyes.
Some of the provided e-mails include e-mails sent to Meadows during the attack on January 6 by Fox talk show hosts such as Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Brian Kilmeade, as well as Donald Trump, Jr. imploring Meadows to convince then-President Trump to do something to call off the rioters. It also included Republican members of Congress and Trump administration officials. For example: Ingraham texted “Hey Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home … this is hurting all of us … he is destroying his legacy.” Donald Trump Jr. texted: “We need an Oval address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.” “He’s got to condemn this **** ASAP.” Other e-mails from members of Congress or administration employees include “Hey, Mark, protestors are literally storming the Capitol. Breaking windows on doors. Rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?” “We are under siege up here at the Capitol.” “They have breached the Capitol.” “There’s an armed standoff at the House Chamber door.” “We are all helpless.” “POTUS has to come out firmly and tell protestors to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed.” “Mark, he needs to stop this. Now.”
These contemporaneous e-mails are significant, since they help disprove the narrative by some Trumpians that it was no big deal or was an Antifa or FBI operation.
I expect a pivot from Trump and his supporters. Meadows will be the fall guy. It may have started by Roger Stone at a press conference after taking the fifth amendment when being questioned by the committee. Stone said that he had nothing to do with the illegal and politically counterproductive actions on January 6. He did not attempt to minimize what occurred or claim that it was an Antifa or FBI operation. The next step is for Trump and his supporters to argue that Trump was in the dark as to how bad the situation was. It was Meadows’ fault because he did not tell Trump what was going on. If Trump had been given the true story, he would have acted immediately instead of waiting a few hours to make a statement.
In my last column, I deliberately decided not to say anything about Trump’s comments about Netanyahu and Abbas. I wanted to see if the Trumpian columnists and the letter to the editor writers would say anything. Rabbi Schonfeld, to his credit, mentioned them and expressed his dismay. It is not easy to say something negative about someone who you support. It is much easier to pretend that it does not exist like the rest of the Trumpians. Unfortunately, more bad comments are coming out from Trump’s interview, including, “It used to be Israel had absolute power over Congress.” Sounds like something out of the Protocols of Zion, except the word “Israel” instead of “Jew.” It is ironic that it is coming out right before the Torah reading for Shemos where the first antisemite, Pharaoh, initiated similar antisemitic tropes.