Former President Donald Trump's ex-chief of staff, Mark Meadows, is the key figure in a number of disturbing text exchanges with Fox News personalities on January 6 of last year, the day a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the United States Capitol in a failed effort to abort the congressional certification of then-President-elect Joe Biden's 2020 election victory.
But a newly-reported series of Meadows' text messages with Trump's eldest son, Donald "Don" Trump Jr., dates back months before a victor was even declared.
Let's set the scene.
For months, the Biden and Trump campaigns, along with election officials and anyone with an eye on the news, were expecting an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for which there were no vaccines at the time. The Trump campaign and Trump himself leapt to sow doubt in the 100+ year old institution of voting by mail, falsely claiming the process was rife with fraud.
Due to Trump's smears against mail-in voting, coupled with his constant dismissal of the pandemic's severity, it came as no surprise that mail-in ballots were far more likely to be from Democratic voters rather than Republican ones.
Because mail-in ballots take longer to process than in-person votes, Trump's early lead evaporated as more mail-in ballots were processed, leading him to lie that mysterious "ballot dumps" were being supplied to rob him of an election victory. In reality, these were just mail-in ballots being counted.
Some states were barred from beginning to process mail-in ballots until Election Day, leading to a protracted counting period that lasted for nearly a week after the November 3rd Election Day. It was during this period, on November 5, that Trump Jr. was texting Meadows, assuring him that team Trump had all the means necessary to install then-President Trump for a second term.
According to a recent report from CNN, Trump Jr. texted Meadows:
"It's very simple ... We have multiple paths[.] We control them all. ... We have operational control. Total leverage. Moral high ground. POTUS must start second term now.”"
The message laid out a bevy of strategies to overturn the election. In addition to public pressure for recounts and audits that Trump Jr. hoped would prevent states from certifying their electoral votes, there was also a strategy to appoint fraudulent Trump-friendly electors in swing states—a move they believed would give then-Vice President Mike Pence the leverage to declare dueling electors. Ideally, Pence (who eventually reached the same consensus as most experts and declared the method unconstitutional) would've thrown out these electoral votes, giving Trump a majority by dismissing the votes of millions of Americans.
Trump Jr. said of this and similar schemes:
"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."
In the months that followed, that's exactly what the Trump team would do. The House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6 uncovered a memo from Trump lawyer John Eastman urging Pence to deploy the fake elector plan, which he called the "Green Bay Sweep." There's evidence that fraudulent electoral votes sent from swing state Republicans to the National Archives were actually coordinated by the Trump campaign.
Trump Jr.'s lawyer told CNN:
"After the election, Don received numerous messages from supporters and others. Given the date, this message likely originated from someone else and was forwarded."
But social media users say it was further confirmation that Trump and his allies were planning to steal the election all along if faced with defeat.
They demanded accountability and speculated that Jr. and his father, along with the rest of Trump's circle, were in violation of the law.
It remains to be seen what consequences, if any, they'll