Interesting for several reasons, at least one of which seems counterintuitive to the reasons for their release. As rioters swarmed around and then into the Capitol, Donald Trump’s allies — and even his son — frantically tried to get the president to call off the riot. But what exactly does that mean for narratives on both sides?
The initial point of the release is to counter Mark Meadows’ public defense for stiffing the House select committee’s subpoena. The committee — all nine of them — want Meadows to explain Trump’s response to these entreaties:
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the panel’s vice chair, read through texts to Meadows from Fox News hosts as well as Trump Jr., imploring Meadows to get his father to “condemn this s— Asap. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough.”
“I’m pushing it hard,” Meadows responded. “I agree.”
“We need an Oval address,” Trump Jr. wrote back. “He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
Several Fox News hosts also urged Meadows to get the president on TV or make some kind of statement while he remained silent in the White House as members of the mob assaulted police officers, chanted things like “Hang Mike Pence” and menaced members of Congress.
“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,” wrote Laura Ingraham.
Brian Kilmeade also chimed in. “Please get him on tv,” he texted Meadows. “Destroying everything you have accomplished.”
And Trump friend and popular Fox News host Sean Hannity simply asked Meadows: “Can he make a statement? … Ask people to leave the Capitol.”
As it turns out, all of these warnings were prescient. The spectacle at the Capitol ended up staining Trump politically — and not just Trump, but those Republicans who fueled the nonsensical expectation that Congress could overturn a presidential election. This performance-art stunt by politicians who know better backfired spectacularly.
However, this string of texts undermines the idea that the riot was a planned event by Trump and part of a larger coup effort. If the idea was a coup, wouldn’t Trump have read his own son and closest political adviser in on the plan? Instead, Don Jr repeatedly tries to get his father into the Oval Office to act presidential and call everything off. “It has gone too far” is not something that coup plotters ever say short of grasping power.
Ben Shapiro points out that these texts also debunk accusations of complicity by Fox News hosts:
Just to get this straight, apparently every Fox News host plus Don Jr. was texting Mark Meadows to tell Trump to talk down the rioters…and this somehow demonstrates a coordinated conspiracy to overthrow the government springing from Fox News and its ilk?
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) December 14, 2021
Exactly. It’s clear that the riot took everyone by surprise, although in retrospect it’s not easy to grasp why. Trump had continually fired up his base in his “stop the steal” campaign, called for the demonstration on the same day that Congress officially recorded the vote (Congress doesn’t “certify” it at all; the states certify election results), and then told them to go down Pennsylvania Avenue to register their discontent. That’s not legally an incitement to riot no matter how much this committee wants to pretend it is, although it’s certainly worthy of political and moral criticism and judgment. (Allahpundit will have more on whether it constitutes another federal crime in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.)
However, there’s a flip side to these texts. They tend to exonerate everyone from the idea of a coup plot, but they also demonstrate that Meadows and/or Trump simply didn’t care much if rioters disrupted and assaulted Congress, either. That’s the point that the committee wants to dissect with Meadows under oath, and that’s the point that Meadows refuses to discuss with them. Did Meadows pass along any of those messages? If so, what was Trump’s response? He waited a long time before issuing a statement asking rioters to back off. Why? It’s not because there was a coup plot, obviously, but did Meadows not bother to pass the messages along — or did Trump just not give a damn while sulking over his election loss?
Finally, the initial impulses of Trump’s friends were somewhat commendable. The publication of those impulses will raise questions now about why they seem less inclined to make those same arguments after the fact and instead tend to defend Trump over the January 6 riot. That is far outside of the committee’s purview, but it’s still a question worth asking.