Trump Indictment Mystery: Where Is Mark Meadows?

From a Wall Street Journal story by Siobhan Hughes headlined “Trump Indictment Mystery: Where Is Mark Meadows?”:

Mark Meadows was the White House chief of staff when Donald Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election result, but he plays only a bit role in the document laying out the charges against the former president.

Meadows talked to Trump several times a day, worked at times to reverse the 2020 results as well as to rein in some efforts and, according to congressional testimony, was slow to engage on Jan. 6, 2021, when some Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to stop the election’s certification. The House Jan. 6 committee’s report said Meadows was likely part of a conspiracy with other Trump confidants to block President Biden’s win.

Tuesday’s indictment by a federal grand jury only mentions Meadows a handful of times, and his level of cooperation with prosecutors remains a mystery.

The indictment points to six people as co-conspirators, and Meadows isn’t one of them. Five of the people, though unnamed in the document, are clearly identifiable as a circle of attorneys and advisers, including Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. The sixth is an unidentified political consultant.

Meadows didn’t return a request for comment. A lawyer representing him, George Terwilliger, said earlier this year that Meadows has been committed to telling the truth. Meadows declined to cooperate fully with the Jan. 6 committee but testified earlier this year before the grand jury investigating Trump’s actions related to the attack.

“We don’t know for sure whether he’s cooperating with the Department of Justice,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D., Calif.), who sat on the House Jan. 6 committee. “We don’t know whether he has cut some deal with the DOJ or whether he has yet to be indicted. We just don’t know.”

Meadows’s allies say that he isn’t a co-conspirator because he didn’t do anything wrong and that prosecutors came to a conclusion different from that of a committee many Republicans saw as politically motivated.

Trump pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 election to remain in power. He called the charges a “persecution of a potential political opponent” by the Biden administration.

Before joining the White House, Meadows served in Congress as the representative of a North Carolina district and helped found the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, serving as a chief engineer of the departure of House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio).

While Meadows moved to South Carolina after Trump lost, he returns regularly to Washington, serving as a senior partner at the nonprofit Conservative Partnership Institute, which hosts regular, weekly meetings of the Freedom Caucus. The Conservative Partnership Institute paid Meadows nearly $560,000 in 2021, according to the most recently available tax filing. Trump’s Save America political-action committee donated $1 million to the group that year.

“I don’t talk about anything J6 related,” Meadows told NBC News at the end of July, referring to Jan. 6, as he entered the Conservative Partnership Institute building, which is located near the U.S. Capitol.

In 2021, the Democratic-controlled House voted largely along party lines to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate fully with the Jan. 6 committee. The Justice Department declined to prosecute the case. Meadows shared thousands of pages of material, including text messages, before he declined to appear for a deposition or to share additional material, citing executive privilege.

The recently released indictment includes scant mention of Meadows relative to other figures such as top Justice Department officials, advisers and alleged co-conspirators.

The indictment cites an incident in December 2020, when Meadows reported that Georgia election officials were “conducting themselves in an exemplary fashion,” only for Trump to then tweet that officials were trying to hide evidence of fraud. It also says Meadows was one of a number of senior staffers who pushed Trump to approve a message for rioters to leave the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The congressional investigation had recounted a more prominent role for Meadows related to the election effort.

According to electronic communications that Meadows turned over to the Jan. 6 committee, Meadows encouraged pushing Republican legislators in some states to send alternative slates of electors to Congress—responding “I love it” when one lawmaker acknowledged the plan was “highly controversial.”

He was at a Dec. 21, 2020, Oval Office meeting with Trump and Republican lawmakers and tweeted that they were “preparing to fight back” against what he called “mounting evidence of voter fraud.” He told Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) that he had pushed for Vice President Mike Pence to simply decline to count Electoral College votes from some states, according to texts that Meadows turned over to the committee. Pence declined to do so.

Marc Short, who served as chief of staff to Pence, said of Meadows: “There’s no doubt that he was a central person that the president leaned on to recruit the legal advice that he wanted to hear.” He labeled Meadows as a “ringleader.”

“That is useless, uninformed-by-the-facts speculation,” responded Meadows’s lawyer, Terwilliger.

Meadows offered assurances to officials skeptical of election-fraud claims that Trump would make a graceful exit, according to testimony from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and others to the Jan. 6 panel. At a Dec. 18, 2020, meeting with Trump at which attorney Sidney Powell and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn floated a plan under which the National Guard would be enlisted to recount ballots, Meadows, participating by phone, sided with Cipollone in rejecting the idea, according to an account provided by businessman Patrick Byrne, who participated in the meeting.

Powell is identifiable as an alleged co-conspirator in the indictment. A lawyer for Powell declined to comment.

When Trump erupted at Attorney General William Barr in a private meeting about the attorney general’s public pronouncement that there had been no widespread election fraud, Meadows sat next to Trump and scowled, according to people familiar with the matter, giving the impression he was backing Trump, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. Meadows then called Barr and pleaded with him to remain on the job, these people said.

After Barr eventually resigned, Meadows helped introduce Trump to Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department attorney who had put together a secret plan to oust Barr’s successor and try to overturn the Georgia election results, according to Justice Department officials, the Journal previously reported.

Clark is identifiable as an alleged co-conspirator in the indictment. Clark didn’t respond to a request for comment.

On Jan. 2, 2021, Meadows joined a call with Trump and House Freedom Caucus members in which the group discussed strategies for delaying the Jan. 6 session to certify the congressional results as well as issuing social-media posts encouraging Trump’s supporters to march to the Capitol, according to the Jan. 6 committee’s report and a contemporaneous post on Twitter by one Republican participant.

Meadows had asked his aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, to come up with a contingency plan for Trump to potentially go to the Capitol on Jan. 6, she testified to the panel, even as the White House counsel raised serious concerns about such a movement, she said.

On the same day, Meadows was on a call with Trump in which the then-president told Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” the votes he needed to win, based on widely circulated audio of the call. Also that day, Meadows told Hutchinson, that “things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6th,” according to testimony she provided to the committee.

On Jan. 5, according to Hutchinson and a House committee member, Meadows participated by phone in a meeting at the Willard Hotel in Washington led by Giuliani and attended by Trump adviser Steve Bannon as well as John Eastman, a former constitutional-law professor who pushed for lobbying state legislators in swing states to appoint alternative, pro-Trump slates of electors.

Meadows didn’t respond to a request for comment after Hutchinson testified before the House panel.

Eastman is identifiable in the indictment as an alleged co-conspirator. Eastman’s lawyer, Charles Burnham, said the indictment was an attempt to “contrive charges” against Trump and “cast ominous aspersions on his close advisers.”

Giuliani adviser Ted Goodman said Tuesday: “Every fact Mayor Rudy Giuliani possesses about this case establishes the good faith basis President Donald Trump had for the actions he took.”

Meadows initially resisted entreaties from other officials pushing him to see Trump in the midst of the Jan. 6 violence, saying that the president “wants to be alone right now,” Hutchinson testified to the Jan. 6 panel.

But when Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, wrote to Meadows that “he’s got to condemn this shit asap,” Meadows responded, “I’m pushing it hard, I agree,” according to a text disclosed by the Jan. 6 committee.

The Jan. 6 committee’s final report lumped Meadows in with Giuliani, as well as Kenneth Chesebro, an attorney and Trump campaign adviser who the report said was an architect of the fake-elector plan, finding that a conspiracy under a section of the law that pertains to conspiring to defraud the U.S. “appears to have also included” all three men. At the time, a lawyer for Meadows declined to comment.

Chesebro is identifiable as an alleged co-conspirator in the Trump indictment. A lawyer for Chesebro didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Sadie Gurman and Isaac Yu contributed to this article.

Siobhan Hughes is a reporter covering Congress in The Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau.

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