The release of texts on Monday night sent to former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on January 6 amount to a smoking gun when it comes to whether those in and around the President were aware of the rising insurrection of that day and the role then-President Donald Trump himself needed to play.
There was Donald Trump Jr.: “He’s got to condemn this sh*t ASAP.”
And Sean Hannity: “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol?”
And Laura Ingraham: “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”
And Brian Kilmeade: “Please, get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished.”
There can be no doubt that, in the moment, those who had Trump’s ear — from his eldest son to his enablers on Fox News — were not only aware of what was happening at the US Capitol, but also were pressuring Meadows (and presumably Trump) to do something about it.
As you may remember, Trump, for a number of hours — even as the Capitol was being ransacked — did nothing. When he did finally release a video message in response to the riot, it was, um, something short of forceful.
“I know your pain. I know you’re hurt,” Trump said. “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side.” He added: “This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”
Trump’s lack of a quick and convincing response is made all the worse by the clear urgency of the warnings he was getting from the people around him. The Meadows’ texts also provide a bitter rebuke to the attempted rewriting of that day — not just by Trump, but also by his Republican enablers in Congress.
Remember that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has spent much of this year downplaying what Trump knew and when he knew it.
“What I talked to President Trump about, I was the first person to contact him when the riots was going on,” McCarthy told Chris Wallace in April of his phone call with Trump that day. “He didn’t see it. What he ended the call was saying — telling me, he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did, he put a video out later.”
That’s, um, not what happened. Here’s what did happen, via reporting in February from CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Kevin Liptak, Michael Warren and Marshall Cohen:
“Speaking to the President from inside the besieged Capitol, McCarthy pressed Trump to call off his supporters and engaged in a heated disagreement about who comprised the crowd. Trump’s comment about the would-be insurrectionists caring more about the election results than McCarthy did was first mentioned by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican from Washington state, in a town hall earlier this week, and was confirmed to CNN by Herrera Beutler and other Republicans briefed on the conversation.”
The point here is a simple one: Those closest to Donald Trump spent January 6 trying to make clear to him that what was happening at the US Capitol needed to be stopped — and that he was the only person who could make that happen. He spent hours refusing to do anything and, when he did finally put out a video calling for his supporters to disperse, it was sprinkled with talk of “fraudulent” elections and a result that was “stolen from us.”
What’s truly remarkable is that that isn’t even the worst thing that these texts reveal. The worst thing is this: Even knowing what they said to Trump on January 6 about the severity of what was happening, many of these same people have spent the last year doing their damndest to downplay it all — arguing that the whole thing was overblown by the media and its Democratic enablers.
That, to me, is the truly appalling part of all of this. To know the right thing — and to even call on Trump, in the moment, to do the right thing — and then spend the next 11 months pretending publicly like you didn’t? Gross.