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Rep. Liz Cheney read text messages she said Mark Meadows got during the Jan. 6 siege

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., vice chair of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, speaks during a meeting on Capitol Hill Monday.
Anna Moneymaker
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Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., vice chair of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, speaks during a meeting on Capitol Hill Monday.

Prior to a unanimous vote to refer Mark Meadows for contempt of Congress charges, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the ranking Republican on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, read a series of text messages she said Meadows received during the Capitol attack.

In the messages, several figures, including Donald Trump Jr. and Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, urge Meadows to get then-President Donald Trump to tell his supporters to leave the Capitol.

Cheney said Meadows, who was Trump's White House chief of staff during the siege, turned over the materials before he stopped cooperating with the panel.

Her full remarks, as well as the remarks of the committee chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., are below:

Cheney's remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We are here to address a very serious matter, contempt of Congress by a former Chief of Staff to a former President of the United States. We do not do this lightly. And indeed, we had hoped not to take this step at all. For weeks, we worked with Mr. Meadows' counsel to reach an agreement on cooperation. But shortly before his scheduled deposition, Mr. Meadows walked away from his commitment to appear, and informed us he would no longer cooperate. We believe Mr. Meadows is improperly asserting executive and other privileges. But this vote on contempt today relates principally to Mr. Meadows' refusal to testify about text messages and other communications that he admits are not privileged. He has not claimed, and does not have any privilege bases to refuse entirely to testify regarding these topics. Let me give just three examples:

First, President Trump's failure to stop the violence. On January 6th, our Capitol building was attacked and invaded. The mob was summoned to Washington by President Trump. And, as many of those involved have admitted – on videotape, in social media, and in Federal District Court – they were provoked to violence by President Trump's false claims that the election was stolen.

The violence was evident to all – it was covered in real time by almost every news channel. But, for 187 minutes, President Trump refused to act when action by our President was required, indeed essential, and compelled by his oath to our Constitution. Mr. Meadows received numerous text messages, which he has produced without any privilege claim – imploring that Mr. Trump take the specific action we all knew his duty required.

These texts leave no doubt: the White House knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol. Republican members of Congress and others wrote to Mark Meadows as the attack was underway:

-"Hey, Mark, protestors are literally storming the Capitol. Breaking windows on doors. Rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?"

-"We are under siege up here at the Capitol."

-"They have breached the Capitol."

-"There's an armed standoff at the House Chamber door."

-"We are all helpless."

Dozens of texts, including from Trump administration officials, urged immediate action by the President:

-"POTUS has to come out firmly and tell protestors to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed"

-"Mark, he needs to stop this. Now"


-"POTUS needs to calm this s*** down."

Indeed, according to the records, multiple Fox News hosts knew the President needed to act immediately. They texted Meadows that:

-"Hey Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home...this is hurting all of us...he is destroying his legacy." Laura Ingraham wrote.

-"Please get him on tv. Destroying everything you have accomplished." Brian Kilmeade wrote.

-"Can he make a statement?...Ask people to leave the Capitol." Sean Hannity urged.

As the violence continued, one of the President's sons texted Meadows:

"He's got to condemn this s*** Asap. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough." Donald Trump, Jr. texted.

Meadows responded: "I'm pushing it hard. I agree."

Still, President Trump did not immediately act.

Donald Trump, Jr. texted again and again, urging action by the President:

"We need an Oval address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand."

But hours passed without the necessary action by the President.

These non-privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump's supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes. And Mr. Meadows testimony will bear on another key question before this Committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress's official proceeding to count electoral votes? Mark Meadows testimony will inform our legislative judgments.

Yet he has refused to give any testimony at all – even regarding non-privileged topics. He is in contempt of Congress.

Second, Mr. Meadows also has knowledge regarding President Trump's efforts to persuade state officials to alter their official election results. In Georgia, for instance, Mr. Meadows participated in a phone call between President Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger. Meadows was on the phone when President Trump asked the Secretary of State to quote "find 11, 780 votes" to change the result of the presidential election in Georgia. At the time of the call, Mr. Meadows appears to have been texting other participants on the call. Again, Mr. Meadows has no conceivable privilege basis to refuse to testify on this topic. He is in contempt of Congress.

Third, in the weeks before January 6th, President Trump's appointees at the Justice Department informed him repeatedly that the President's claims of election fraud were not supported by the evidence, and that the election was not, in fact, stolen. President Trump intended to appoint Jeffrey Clark as Attorney General, in part so that Mr. Clark could alter the Department of Justice's conclusions regarding the election. Mr. Clark has now informed the Committee that he anticipates potential criminal prosecution related to these matters and intends in upcoming testimony to invoke his 5th Amendment Privilege against self-incrimination. As Mr. Meadows non-privileged texts reveal, Meadows communicated multiple times with a member of Congress who was working with Clark. Mr. Meadows has no basis to refuse to testify regarding those communications. He is in contempt.

Conclusion: January 6th was without precedent. There has been no stronger case in our nation's history for a congressional investigation into the actions of a former president. This investigation is not like other congressional inquiries. Our Constitution, the structure of our institutions and the rule of law – which are at the heart of what makes America great — are at stake. We cannot be satisfied with incomplete answers, or half-truths; and we cannot surrender to President Trump's efforts to hide what happened. We will be persistent, professional and non-partisan. We must get to the objective truth and ensure that January 6th never happens again.

Thompson remarks, as prepared for delivery:

This week, I expect that roughly a dozen key witnesses will provide testimony on the record in our investigation. We'll hear from many more informally as we continue to gather facts about the violence of January 6th and its causes.

That should put us well north of the 300 mark in terms of witnesses who have given us information. Add to that more than 30,000 records, and nearly 250 substantive tips on our tip line.

The Court of Appeals here in Washington has ruled, quickly, in our favor regarding the Select Committee's work to uncover relevant information. And day by day, we're getting a clearer picture of what happened, who was involved, who paid for it, and where that money went.

So I'm pleased to report we're making swift progress. And before too long, our findings will be out in the open. We will have public hearings. We will tell this story to the American people. But we won't do it piecemeal. We'll do it when we can tell the story all at once, start to finish—not leave anyone guessing and not allowing it to fade into the memory of last week's news. This story is too important. The stakes are too high. We have to do this job right.

And that means we have to address the handful of outliers soberly and appropriately. That's why we're here this evening.

The Select Committee's report referring Mr. Meadows for criminal contempt charges is clear and compelling. As White House chief of staff, Mr. Meadows played a role in or was witness to key events leading up to and including the January 6th assault on the United States Capitol. Don't let lawsuits or op-eds about executive privilege by Mr. Meadows or his representatives confuse you.

It comes down to this: Mr. Meadows started by doing the right thing—cooperating. He handed over records that he didn't try to shield behind some excuse. But in an investigation like ours, that's just a first step. When the records raise questions—as these most certainly do—you have to come in and answer those questions. And when it was time for him to follow the law, come in, and testify on those questions, he changed his mind and told us to pound sand. He didn't even show up.

Now, this happened the same day his book was published. The same book that goes into detail about matters the Select Committee is reviewing. It also details conversations he had with President Trump and others—conversations we want to hear more about. He has also appeared on national television discussing the events of January 6th. He has no credible excuse for stonewalling the Select Committee's investigation.

My colleagues will get into some of the particulars about what landed us here tonight. But I'd like to take a step back for a moment and think about what it means to stand in the way of the Select Committee's work.

A small group of people have gotten a lot of attention because of their defiance. But many others have taken a different path and provided important information about January 6 and the context in which the riot occurred. Anyone who wants to cooperate with our investigation can do so. Nearly everyone has.

Our democracy was inches from ruin. Our system of government was stretched to the breaking point. Members and staff were terrorized. Police officers fought hand to hand for hours. People lost their lives.

We want to figure out why and share that information with the American people. And either you're on the side of helping us figure out why... or you're trying to stop us from getting those answers. You can parade out whatever argument you want, but really, that's all there is to it.

In real life, there aren't a lot of bright-line moments. This is one of them.

And if you're listening at home, Mr. Meadows, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Clark, I want you to know this: History will be written about these times, about the work this Committee has undertaken. And history will not look upon any of you as a martyr. History will not look upon you as a victim. History will not dwell on your long list of privilege claims or your legal sleight of hand. History will record that in a critical moment in our democracy, most people were on the side of finding the truth, of providing accountability, of strengthening our system for future generations. And history will also record, in this critical moment, that some people were not. That some people hid behind excuses—went to great lengths to avoid answering questions and explaining what they had done and what they knew. I predict that history won't be kind to those people.

What's especially jarring about the referral we're considering tonight is that Mr. Meadows was a member of this body for more than seven years. He was a leading voice in certain corners, even, briefly, the Ranking Member of the Oversight and Reform Committee. It's not hard to locate records of his time in the House and find a Mr. Meadows full of indignation because, at the time, a prior administration wasn't cooperating with a congressional investigation to his satisfaction.

Whatever legacy he thought he left in the House, this is his legacy now. His former colleagues singling him out for criminal prosecution because he wouldn't answer questions about what he knows about a brutal attack on our democracy. That's his legacy.

But he hasn't left us any choice. Mr. Meadows put himself in this situation and he must now accept the consequences. So I will support the Select Committee's adoption of this report, recommending that the House cite Mark Randall Meadows for contempt of Congress and refer him to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR Staff