Tonight, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol held a televised hearing to vote on whether to hold Trump's White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena. Their answer was yes, unanimously, by a vote of 9–0. More, even than that, though, was that in order to justify their votes they dropped some details about what happened on January 6.
What they revealed was eye-popping.
All members of the committee spoke tonight, underscoring the importance of the moment.
Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) grabbed the headlines, though, as she read text messages Meadows received on January 6. They included texts from lawmakers to Meadows begging Trump to call off the rioters, making it crystal clear that those closest to him understood that those attacking the Capitol would respond to his orders. Dozens of texts urged the president to act to stop the protesters: "Someone is going to get killed." "POTUS needs to calm this sh*t down."
Those writing the texts to Meadows about the president also included his son Donald Trump, Jr. (why was he communicating with his father through Meadows?), and Fox News Channel personalities Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade, and Sean Hannity, revealing how dangerously intertwined the right-wing media system is with Republican lawmakers. "This is hurting all of us," Ingraham wrote to Meadows during the insurrection.
Cheney said: "These texts leave no doubt: the White House knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol. Members of Congress, the press, and others wrote to Mark Meadows as the attack was underway."
And yet, Trump remained unmoved for 187 minutes while our Capitol was under attack and lawmakers hid from the mob. As Cheney said: "Hours passed without necessary action by the president. These non privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump's supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes."
Cheney took the fight directly to Trump with her accusation of "dereliction of duty." The Capitol was under attack, and the one person who everyone believed could stop the attack, the commander-in-chief, refused to. A number of lawmakers tossed the term "dereliction of duty" around immediately after the insurrection, but it has faded from conversation as Republicans have lined up again behind the former president. It is, though, an offense under the U.S. military code, and therefore is something that people understand is serious.
Cheney was more specific in another accusation of criminal behavior. After establishing that many lawmakers and media personalities begged then-president Trump to call off the rioters, she asked: "Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress's proceedings?"
What Cheney did tonight was courageous. She put herself on the line in the struggle to hold Trump and his loyalists accountable. As other lawmakers claim to be afraid to stand up to Trump out of fear for their safety, she has made herself a key target of the Trump loyalists in order to defend our democracy.
But that was not all that happened in the hearing.
To underscore that the material Meadows handed over was not privileged, Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) explained that Meadows conducted business on a personal cell phone and over personal email accounts, as well as over Signal, a secure messaging system that encrypts messages so they cannot be unlocked by anyone but the receiver.
The committee members also increased pressure on those continuing to protect the former president.
Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) revealed other messages, from unnamed lawmakers, expressing sympathy for the insurrection. One lawmaker texted Meadows: "On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all." A message from a lawmaker the next day read. "Yesterday was a terrible day. We tried everything we could in our objection to the 6 states. I'm sorry nothing worked."
This evening, Thompson told reporters that "the information we received has been quite revealing about members of Congress involved in the activities of January 6th as well as staff." He said the names of the lawmakers involved in the events of that day will come out. One of those involved is almost certainly Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who has been evasive about when and how many times he talked to Trump on January 6, although says with certainty he did.
Rolling Stone reported tonight that two people who helped to organize the January 6 rally at the Ellipse are saying they will cooperate with the committee fully. Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, who have both been subpoenaed by the committee, are longtime activists who tended to operate on the margins of established politics.
CNN business journalist Brian Stelter noted that right-wing media channels—including the Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and One America News—did not cover the January 6 committee hearing at all tonight. Hannity, though, did interview Meadows, opening his show by telling viewers: "The hyperpartisan predetermined-outcome anti-Trump January 6 committee just voted 9 to 0 to hold Mark Meadows in contempt for refusing to comply with their orders." He went on to ask Meadows why Congress is not investigating what Hannity painted as the terrible riots in the summer of 2020.
Their discomfort might reflect, in part, that they, too, were implicated in the events of January 6. After begging Trump to call off his supporters during the insurrection, the same personalities went in front of their audiences on camera and lied that Trump had nothing to do with the insurrection. Ingraham, for example, blamed Antifa for the attack on the Capitol, suggested the riot was staged by provocateurs, and suggested there were just three dozen people.
The suggestion that Antifa was the real culprit on January 6 might or might not have been related to the plan suggested yesterday that Trump had expected counter-protesters and had been prepared to use the ensuing violence as a pretext to declare martial law. At 5:25 p.m. on January 5, Trump tweeted: "Antifa is a Terrorist Organization, stay out of Washington. Law enforcement is watching you very closely!"
Just three days ago, on Friday, December 10, Ingraham interviewed Trump, who told her he wasn't involved in the rioting on January 6 and that his words that day "were extremely calming."
The resolution to hold Meadows in contempt will go to the full House tomorrow.