Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is having a very bad month. Two weeks ago, The New Yorker broke a story about how Meadows had registered to vote in North Carolina—a crucial swing state won by just 1 percent—using an address in the town of Scaly Mountain of a dilapidated mobile home in which he apparently had never actually set foot. The standard voter registration form for North Carolina asks for a residential address: “where you physically live.” It is signed “under penalty of perjury.” After the story broke and a local district attorney referred the matter to state authorities, North Carolina investigators began looking into whether Meadows committed voter fraud in the state, which is a Class I felony in the state punishable by up to a year in prison.
Meadows’s wife, Debra Meadows, is listed as submitting an absentee ballot request for her husband listing the residential address as the mobile home in Scaly Mountain. Although the signature on the form is redacted, according to reporting by the Washington Post a spokesman for the State Board of Elections in North Carolina confirmed that the signature says “Mark Meadows."
If that weren’t enough, per the Associated Press, public records also show Meadows registered to vote in Alexandria, Virginia, almost exactly one year after he registered in Scaly Mountain—and just weeks before Virginia’s very important governor’s election last fall—meaning he is now allegedly registered to vote in two states, another possible illegal act.
It is more than ironic, but somehow not terribly surprising, that Meadows frequently beat the drum over “voter fraud” prior to the 2020 presidential election as polls showed his former boss Trump trailing Joe Biden. In an interview with ABC News, Meadows wagged his finger over mail-in voting. “What we do know is a number of times as we have mail-in ballots, if there is not a chain of custody that goes from the voter to the ballot box, mischief can happen.” Now it is Meadows who has apparently commit voter fraud—and in a highly intentional way. “I’m kind of dumbfounded, to be honest with you,” said Melanie D. Thibault, the director of Macon County’s Board of Elections.
Adding to his legal peril, a new piece in Rolling Stone now turns up the heat even more on Trump’s former top aide. Meadows apparently played a direct role in organizing the illegal march on January 6, 2021 from the Ellipse to the Capitol, at least according to one eyewitness. In support of this claim, investigative journalist Hunter Walker, who has broken some of the biggest stories around the planning, funding and execution of the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, cites statements from Scott Johnston, a rally organizer who has been cooperating with the January 6 Committee in its investigation. Johnston claims he overheard a speakerphone conversation between rally organizers and top Trump officials, including Meadows and Trump national campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson, deliberately scheming to have crowds converge on the Capitol but to “make it look like they went down there on their own.”
The conversation took place as Johnston drove one rally organizer, Kylie Kremer, who was the executive director of Women for America First, between the group’s rallies in the final three days of 2020. “They were very open about how there was going to be a march,” Johnston says. “Everyone knew there was going to be a march.” The organizers decided not to seek a permit because of the costs of security and the optics of the then-president organizing such overt public pressure on Congress.
Importantly, and verifiably, Johnston testified that the rally organizers were “constantly” using “burner phones” (i.e. pre-paid, inexpensive phones that are not identified with any one person or account and are thus harder to trace) to communicate with Trump aides about the rally, the permits needed, and plans for a march. Johnston knew this because he had personally purchased three phones for Women for America First at the direction of Kremer. A source working with the January 6 Committee confirmed that such phones were purchased in California, corroborating Johnston’s account that he had bought them at a CVS in Cathedral City in that state. In the key conversation he overheard, in which Meadows and other top Trump aides were present, Johnston says the group settled on ordering a march without an official permit. The burner phones provide a key insight into “consciousness of guilt” and would be something a jury might have trouble ignoring. After all, as George Conway observed, why go through the trouble of buying burner phones if you’re just engaging in “legitimate public discourse”?
Proving a conspiracy necessarily includes proving the critical elements of an agreement to do something illegal and overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy. Whether this evidence of a pre-meditated plan by Meadows and the organizers to turn the Ellipse rally into a fired-up march on the Capitol is solid beyond a reasonable doubt remains unclear. But it certainly does push the White House ever closer to the charge that its backup plan was to unleash the mob itself on the Capitol while the electoral votes were being counted. After all, during his speech at the Ellipse former President Trump did in fact tell the crowd to march down to the Capitol. At the time, it seemed like it might have been an impromptu statement, but the evidence provided by Johnston calls that seriously into question. Meadows’s office did not respond to requests for comment, and Kremer has denied the allegation about both the march and the burner phones.
Meadows is already facing possible contempt of Congress charges after the January 6 Committee referred his case to the Justice Department for prosecution after he ignored a subpoena to appear and provide sworn testimony. The Department has yet to act on the referral, which is tied to tricky claims of executive privilege and, if pursued, would present the politically fraught spectacle of prosecuting a former White House chief of staff. But as Meadows’s legal issues grow, there will be increasing pressure for accountability in his role, not only in the hypocritical spreading of the Big Lie by someone who himself committed voter fraud, but in his likely active role in a conspiracy to overturn the election by knowingly and intentionally weaponizing the Trump mob.
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