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Don Jr wrote it all down — again
A text he sent to Meadows just after the 2020 election is the latest evidence that yes, it was a coup attempt.
With Donald Trump Jr.’s private correspondence back in the news, it’s worth remembering this isn’t the first time that, to paraphrase Stringer Bell, the former president’s eldest son made things worse for himself by leaving notes on a criminal bleepin’ conspiracy.
Back in the summer of 2017, Trump Jr.’s emails emerged as key evidence in the Trump-Russia scandal, with one of them serving as proof Trumpworld had at the very least tried to collude with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton.
“If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Don Jr. wrote in an infamous missive to a Kremlin intermediary who promised him “very high level and sensitive information” that was “part of Russia and its government’s support” for his dad and “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
Fast forward five years, and it turns out that Don Jr. wrote it all down again.
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Over the weekend, both CNN and the New York Times reported that two days after the 2020 election, Don Jr. sent a text to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, whose inbox at the time was a clearinghouse for coup ideas from a range of Trumpworld figures, urging him to pull out all the stops in an effort to overturn Trump’s election loss. Don Jr. outlined numerous strategies that Trumpworld in fact went on to attempt in the following months.
“Moral High Ground POTUS must start 2nd term now,” he wrote.
More from CNN:
Two days after the 2020 presidential election, as votes were still being tallied, Donald Trump's eldest son texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that "we have operational control" to ensure his father would get a second term, with Republican majorities in the US Senate and swing state legislatures, CNN has learned.
In the text, which has not been previously reported, Donald Trump Jr. lays out ideas for keeping his father in power by subverting the Electoral College process, according to the message reviewed by CNN. The text is among records obtained by the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021.
"It's very simple," Trump Jr. texted to Meadows on November 5, adding later in the same missive: "We have multiple paths We control them all."
The context here is important. While the election still hadn’t been called on November 5, it was becoming clearer by the day at that point that Biden won. And yet Don Jr. was already scheming about ways to nullify the result and install his father in office.
The New York Times piece details how Trump’s text to Meadows presaged the coup strategy that gained traction just before January 6 — pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence to obstruct Congress’s counting of the electoral votes.
Mr. Trump and a number of his advisers pressured Vice President Mike Pence to use his ceremonial role in the Electoral College certification to upend the process, something Mr. Pence was adamant was beyond his authority.
The text message that Donald Trump Jr. sent to Mr. Meadows acknowledged that scenario, which was championed by a lawyer advising President Trump, John C. Eastman. “We either have a vote WE control and WE win OR it gets kicked to Congress 6 January 2021,” the text message said.
In a statement sent to CNN and the Times, Don Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, claimed the text “likely originated from someone else and was forwarded.” But even if that’s true, Don Jr. made clear he endorsed what it said.
Immediately before his text to Meadows describing multiple paths for challenging the election, Trump Jr. texted Meadows the following: "This is what we need to do please read it and please get it to everyone that needs to see it because I'm not sure we're doing it."
During a Sunday appearance on MSNBC, Joyce Vance, a former US attorney in Alabama, described Don Jr.’s text as a “smoking gun.”
But, as George Conway pointed out on Twitter, it’s worth remembering that then-President Trump had already made clear during his unhinged 2:30 a.m. news conference the morning following the election that he was going to use baseless claims of fraud to try to overthrow the results. So in that sense Don Jr.’s text is just further confirmation of what we already know — that Trump attempted a coup.
These comments from Trump were more than idle sentiments. Trump went on to pressure Pence to try to overturn his election loss, while encouraging his supporters to descend on DC on January 6 ahead of Congress formally counting the Electoral College votes. He whipped his fans into a frenzy before they attacked the Capitol. Given all that, it’s notable but not shocking that the New York Times reported on Sunday that the January 6 committee has concluded “they have enough evidence to refer Mr. Trump for obstructing a congressional proceeding and conspiring to defraud the American people.”
But that Times report adds that the committee is split on whether to actually make the referral, because some members are worried the “largely symbolic act” would “backfire by politically tainting the Justice Department’s expanding investigation into the Jan. 6 assault and what led up to it.” At the same time, however, committee members are publicly expressing frustration that AG Merrick Garland isn’t doing enough.
As I’ve written before, Trump’s entire life, as well as the lives of his adult children, have served as long demonstrations that laws don’t amount to much if nobody is held accountable for breaking them. I’d like to believe this time is different, and that Garland is working diligently behind the scenes to investigate Trump’s culpability for January 6. But it’s hard not to be cynical.