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Don’t Cry for Mark Meadows (Or Let Him Cry to You)

Quick tears and figurative knives may not be enough to save him this time. 
February 8, 2022
Don’t Cry for Mark Meadows (Or Let Him Cry to You)
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows talks to reporters at the White House on October 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Here is everything you need to know about Mark Meadows: In 2013, after he failed to oust Speaker John Boehner, he went to the speaker’s office, literally got down on his knees, and begged Boehner for forgiveness. Boehner let him cry it out but didn’t buy the act because, as Boehner told it, “I knew he was carrying a backpack full of knives, and sooner or later he’d try to cut me again with them.”

Meadows’s willingness to adopt a slavish posture has served him well in the Trump era. But now, with the January 6 investigation fully underway, it’s not clear who his various sob stories are intended for.

As of now, he’s laying it on thick for Trump. In his book, The Chief’s Chief, Meadows said he was fated to work for Trump because “God cornered” him for the White House job. People ask him if Trump will run again, and Meadows says they “often look as if they won’t be able to breathe another few minutes without knowing whether it’s really going to happen . . . the question comes from deep in their soul, sounding more like a desperate prayer than a simple inquiry.” He describes himself as feeling similarly.

It’s a lot to unpack.

Because as Trump’s right-hand man, Meadows was like the Holy Spirit of all Trump’s insane election schemes, the hidden hand that moved Trump’s ideas into action and tested the realms of presidential possibility—legally and otherwise.

Quick tears and figurative knives may not be enough to save him this time.

For all the attention he’s gotten for stonewalling the House Jan. 6th Committee, it’s vital to remember Meadows did initially comply with the committee’s request for his communications—just as hundreds of other people have done.

Last fall, he turned over thousands of pages of information, including communications conducted over his non-official devices—namely, his two separate Gmail accounts, a personal cell phone, and his encrypted Signal account. After combing through them, the committee found many subject areas of interest.

The committee flagged his emails regarding the Electoral Count Act and the idea for state legislatures to send Congress alternate slates of electors. They decided they needed more information about his communications to the Department of Justice that advocated for voter fraud investigations, long after the Trump campaign had lost all their challenges in court. They wanted more insight into his emails about the deployment of the National Guard on January 6, 2021. (Meadows wrote in a January 5 email that the National Guard would be present that day to “protect pro Trump people.”)

Meadows was scheduled for a deposition in which he was to answer questions about those communications, which, again, he willingly handed over.

But Meadows changed course the day before the deposition. He told the committee he wasn’t coming after all. Coincidentally, that was the same day his book was released, which went into great detail about his conversations, observations, and interactions with Trump surrounding January 6. And all of these were sympathetic to Trump.

Maybe he thought the public would accept his book as testimony? That would be a hard sell, given the disparities between his publisher-approved version events and what the committee has gathered from his contemporaneous, private communications.

An example: In his book, Meadows claims that “contrary to a slew of false allegations,” Trump never suggested that the government “deploy the United States military to remain in power.“ But is this allegation “false”? We have reporting about numerous concerns that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act on January 6 and draft executive orders to use the military to seize voting machines. Maybe you could argue that the risk that Trump was going to use the military was less, not more. But “false”? No.

The committee has subsequently held Meadows in contempt and their reasoning is laid out in a fairly damning 51-page report. For good measure, they held a public meeting to make it clear to everyone what Meadows had already provided and explain why they wanted more. Liz Cheney read some of the texts Meadows received from Trump administration officials, members of Congress, members of the media, and even Don Jr.—all begging Meadows to get Trump to call off the violence.

Cheney described the texts as “further evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty.” The House followed the committee and approved a contempt referral for Meadows to the Department of Justice. All eyes are on Attorney General Merrick Garland for the next move. Remember that Garland indicted Steve Bannon for contempt in November. So, the outlook doesn’t seem very good for Meadows.

Someone might want to get him a hankie.

Meadows has every right to be worried. Whatever earthly tools he might possess in the figurative backpack that Boehner described may be of no use to him now.

In addition to knowledge of Trump’s dereliction of duty as a direct observer of Trump’s actions and inactions on January 6, Meadows was also perhaps the second-highest level participant, aside from Trump, in all of the most serious efforts to overturn the election.

In late December 2020, Meadows traveled to Georgia for a “surprise visit” to inspect a county audit. He was also on the call where President Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find the votes” to flip the state’s election results. Cheney has mentioned that “at the time of that call, he appears to have been texting other participants on the call.”

Meadows loves to text. As Jeffrey Clark attempted to alter the Department of Justice’s determinations about election fraud, the committee disclosed that Meadows texted “multiple times” with an unnamed member of Congress who was working with Clark.

What was Meadows doing? Helping the efforts to overturn the election or trying to hinder them? Well, that’s what the committee wants to talk to him about. But in case you’re looking to make an educated guess, Meadows did do that Trump apologia of a book. And he did recently pocket a $1 million donation from Trump’s PAC to his non-profit.

You do the math.

For whatever it’s worth, Meadows already has plenty of tears and prayers ready on tap. They’re probably his best hope.

Meadows said as he wrapped up his time at the White House on January 20, his wife reminded him of Joshua in the Old Testament. Meadows described Joshua as the “right-hand man to Moses”—a chief’s chief, you might say. As the story goes, Joshua prayed for the sun and moon to stand still so that he could have 24 hours of daylight to fight his enemies. And so does Meadows.

“Standing at Joint Base Andrews that morning, watching President Trump board his final flight as president of the United States,” Meadows wrote in his book, “I found myself wishing for something similar. If we could get only one more day, one more hour, the things we could accomplish.”

Moments later, Trump walked over to Meadows and “pulled me in and whispered into my ear, ‘You’ve done a terrific job, Mark,’ he said. ‘I wish I’d gotten you earlier.’ ‘I’m proud of you,’ he said. ‘Now go get ’em.’”

Meadows recalled how “emotions flooded him.” As he walked away, he was “fighting back tears.” The very last line of his book promises that “Trump will be back.”

If he’s not, Meadows is going to have to find another protector to cry to.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is an author, a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz, and a former speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint. She was formerly a Bulwark political columnist.