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These Two Congressional Trump Allies Should Explain Their Damning Texts with Mark Meadows

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

A story broke late last week when CNN released scores of text messages that Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) sent to and received from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. The texts covered the period after the November 2020 election all the way up to the attack upon the Capitol on January 6, 2021. They reveal an important progression of thought for the Congressmembers—from strong allies to serious doubters—that could help prove consciousness of guilt by the White House plotters. Here are some of the most relevant texts:

Nov. 7, 2020

From Mike Lee to Mark Meadows,

Sydney [sic] Powell is saying that she needs to get in to see the president, but she’s being kept away from him. Apparently she has a strategy to keep things alive and put several states back in play. Can you help her get in?

From Chip Roy to Mark Meadows

…If you're still in the game... dude, we need ammo. We need fraud examples. We need it this weekend.

From Mark Meadows to Chip Roy

We are working on exactly that

Nov. 19, 2020

From Mike Lee to Mark Meadows: (Powell has just made incredible conspiracy accusations around Dominion vote machine fraud)

I’m worried about the Powell press conference.
The potential defamation liability for the president is significant here
For the campaign and for the president personally
Unless Powell can back up everything she said, which I kind of doubt she can

From Mark Meadows to Mike Lee

I agree. Very concerned

From Mike Lee to Mark Meadows

Unless Powell can immediately substantiate what she said today, the president should probably disassociate himself and refute any claims that can’t be substantiated

From Chip Roy to Mark Meadows

Hey brother - we need substance or people are going to break...

Nov. 22, 2020

From Chip Roy to Mark Meadows

If we don’t get logic and reason in this before 11/30 - the GOP conference will bolt (all except the most hard core Trump guys)
We need a controlled message ASAP.

From Mark Meadows to Chip Roy

Working on it

From Chip Roy to Mark Meadows

Have you talked to John Eastman?
Get Eastman to file in front of pa board of elections...
Get data in front of public domain.
Frigging Rudy needs to hush...

Nov. 23, 2020

From Mike Lee to Mark Meadows

Also, I have an additional idea for the campaign. Something is not right in a few states. I think it could be proven or disproven easily with an audit (a physical counting of all ballots cast) in PA, WI, GA, and MI.
John Eastman has some really interesting research on this. The good news is [ ] that Eastman is proposing an approach that unlike what Sidney Powell has propose[d] could be examined very quickly.

Nov. 25, 2020

From Chip Roy to Mark Meadows

Where do we stand, brother? do we have anything to put out that can make the case?

Dec. 8, 2020

From Mike Lee to Mark Meadows

If a very small handful of states were to have their legislatures appoint alternative slates of delegates, there could be a path.

From Mark Meadows to Mike Lee

I am working on that as of yesterday

Dec 31, 2020

From Chip Roy to Mark Meadows

The President should call everyone off. It’s the only path. If we substitute the will of states through electors with a vote by Congress every 4 years... we have destroyed the electoral college... Respectfully.

Jan 1, 2021

From Chip Roy to Mark Meadows

If POTUS allows this to occur... we’re driving a stake in the heart of the federal republic…

Jan. 3, 2021

From Mike Lee to Mark Meadows

I have grave concerns with the way my friend Ted [Cruz] is going about this effort.
This will not inure to the benefit of the president.
Everything changes, of course, if the swing states submit competing slates of electors pursuant to state law.
But if not, this could help people like Ted and Josh [Hawley] to the detriment of DJT.
…[T]his will end badly for the president unless we have the Constitution on our side. And unless these states submit new slates of Trump electors pursuant to state law, we do not.

From Mark Meadows to Mike Lee

[Trump] thinks the legislatures have the power but that the Vp has power too

Jan. 4, 2021

From Mike Lee to Mark Meadows

…We need something from state legislatures to make this legitimate and to have any hope of winning. Even if they can’t convene, it might be enough if a majority of them are willing to sign a statement indicating how they would vote.

Jan 6, 2021

From Chip Roy to Mark Meadows

This is a shitshow
Fix this now.

From Mark Meadows to Chip Roy

We are

These texts on their face provide important context that underscores the challenge of sorting ostensibly legal maneuvers that could have affected the electoral count on the one hand, and entirely illegal and unconstitutional schemes on the other.

Both Sen. Lee and Rep. Roy were staunch allies of the former president and supportive of early White House efforts to challenge the results of the election based on claims of fraud. Both appear to have been taken in initially by unsupported allegations of ballot tampering and wanted very badly for the White House to come up with the hard goods and show the American people. They thus began to explore ways that the election results could be overturned, primarily through action at the swing state legislative level. For this, though, they would need substantial evidence of election fraud.

But when Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani held their infamous press conference in mid-November 2020. in which they made wild and unsubstantiated claims surrounding Dominion voting machines and Venezuelan software, both Lee and Roy apparently began to wonder where this was really headed. Their texts to Meadows began demanding substance to back up the fraud claims. Meadows also appeared to share their doubts about Powell. Sen. Lee quickly went from a supporter of Powell to a detractor, even warning the White House about a crushing defamation case that would be coming and did in fact get filed against Powell in early January of 2021.

From the date of that wild press conference, Lee and Roy appeared to pivot, with both of them talking by late November about attorney John Eastman, who was the author of the soft coup plot involving Vice President Pence. Rep. Roy apparently wanted Eastman to be the face of the legal team in places like Pennsylvania, and Sen. Lee began openly embracing the idea of legislatures in swing states sending alternate slates of electors.

But here we have an important distinction that is sometimes lost. Prior to state certification, the safe harbor date, and the official meeting of the electoral college in mid-December, the state electoral slates were arguably still in play. The notion that state legislatures could vote to send alternate slates held some historical precedent in both the disputed election of 1876 and the close election in Hawaii of 1960. Such a move would have caused outcries and chaos (and spawned immediate litigation) in any state that sought to undo the will of the voters by a bill passed by the state legislature. But which slate of electors a state ultimately decides to certify, along with the way it goes about that process, is still generally a matter of state law. This is the case so long as no federal right, such as the right to vote or the right to equal protection, is impinged. All states have laws on the books stating that the presidential election, and thus the state’s electoral college votes, is decided by election of the majority of the eligible voters.

But it’s important to distinguish what Lee and Roy were talking about in November from what John Eastman actually was proposing and what eventually occurred. Lee and Roy wanted substantive evidence of fraud precisely to be able to persuade state legislatures to take official actions. But no actual evidence of fraud was ever forthcoming, despite their pleas to the White House. In the end, there was not a single state legislature that decided to take up the call to challenge the election. Rather, even in swing states controlled by Republican legislatures and with Republican governors, such as Arizona and Georgia, the election was certified for Joe Biden, and those certifications were sent to Washington accordingly.

Behind the scenes, however, the White House was coordinating fake slates of electors with no power or authority to act as official electors. These false slates existed only to provide a colorable pretense for Vice President Pence to declare that there were competing slates submitted and to declare the election illegally for Trump—or otherwise throw it as a contested election to the House, where the Republicans had the edge. Through their texts, both Lee and Roy appear to have understood and communicated that this plan was unconstitutional and lacked any legitimate legal footing, with Roy even warning that this could put the entire Republic at risk.

Ultimately, both Lee and Roy voted to certify the election and did not join with the objectors. They saw through the White House plan and called it out for what it was—a sham that didn’t have the actual backing of any official state laws or slates of electors. This matters a great deal because now it cannot be said that the White House was not on notice of the illegality of its plan, even from its own Congressional allies. On the contrary, some of the former president’s most trusted friends in Congress, who were willing to go to the mat for Trump if he could show actual vote fraud, withdrew their support entirely when the White House came up empty and instead set out a wholly illegal scheme.

This in turn goes directly to Trump’s and his cronies’ corrupt intent, a key component of any possible future charges. When even your allies in Congress are urgently telling you that the fraud claims you have are weak and non-credible and that the plan you have in mind is going to destroy the country, your case that you were somehow acting within bounds looks increasingly like a “coup in search of a legal theory,” as one federal judge recently put it.

The media has been disturbingly silent on following up with questions and follow-up coverage of what Sen. Lee and Rep. Roy intended when sending these damning texts. Following the reporting on Friday, none of the Sunday news talk shows so much as discussed them. This is a grave disservice to the public. These officials should have to explain the texts in detail to reporters, including the evolution of their thought processes on the election and the bogus claims of fraud, as well as the coup attempt and why ultimately they decided not to object to the final count. It is not enough, for example, for Senator Lee’s office simply to state that the texts were in line with his vote to certify the election. The state of mind of the communicators is very much at issue, and the evidence goes toward whether the White House was acting with corrupt intent.

The media should do its job here. Two federal officials plotted with the White House to overturn the election results and then got cold feet after they found out what was actually planned. There is too much at stake for this story to simply disappear.