Between the lines

Inside the texts sent to Donald Trump during Capitol riot

President’s son and Fox News hosts called on former president to condemn deadly protest

Donald Trump’s closest advisors and backers pleaded with the then White House chief of staff to persuade his boss to intervene as rioters rampaged through the halls of Congress, newly released text messages show.

Three Fox News hosts, Republican lawmakers and Trump’s oldest son, Donald Jr, begged Mark Meadows to reason with the outgoing president as “panic enveloped” his inner circle during the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, said The Guardian.

The high-profile figures who contacted Meadows have made “public efforts to downplay” the uprising, the paper reported. But the messages, made public by the vice-chair of a House select committee investigating the riot, reveal a “frantic” atmosphere in which Trump’s loudest “cheerleaders” urged him “to act quickly to stop the siege by his supporters”.

1

Donald Trump Jr.

Getty Images

Donald Trump Jr.

“We need an Oval address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand,” the president’s oldest son wrote in a text read aloud by vice-chair Liz Cheney during the committee inquiry. “He’s got to condemn this shit asap,” he added in a second message.

Meadows replied to Trump Jr.’s entreaty, writing: “I’m pushing it hard. I agree.”

The message came as “staff inside the Capitol grew increasingly desperate as the rioters broke in” and “were among a trove of about 9,000 documents submitted by Meadows” to the congressional committee probing the attack, The Times reported.

“To Trumpologists”, Trump Jr.’s texts “sound wildly out of character, Vanity Fair said.

Earlier that day, he told Republican lawmakers: “You have an opportunity today. You can be a hero, or you can be a zero. And the choice is yours. But we are all watching. The whole world is watching, folks. Choose wisely.”

That the president’s oldest son was “trying to communicate with this father through Meadows” also raises questions, the magazine added.

“Did he realise from the get-go that Trump – who’s never appeared particularly fond of his namesake – wouldn’t listen to him and then decide to try Meadows as a back channel?”

Donald Trump Jr. has not commented on the release of the messages.

2

Laura Ingraham

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Laura Ingraham

Ingraham, host of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, also wrote to Meadows, stating: “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.”

But as The Washington Post reported, Ingraham later appeared on her show claiming that the demonstrators were “likely not all Trump supporters and there are some reports that Antifa sympathy may have been sprinkled throughout the crowd”.

“I have never seen Trump rally attendees wearing helmets, black helmets, brown helmets, black backpacks”, she added, claiming those involved were “antithetical to the Maga [Make America Great Again] movement”.

It has since been evidenced that the crowd included “members of right-wing, pro-Trump militia groups including Proud Boys and Oath Keepers”, CNBC said.

3

Brian Kilmeade

Noam Galai/Getty Images

Brian Kilmeade

In another example of what The Guardian described as Fox News hosts “crossing a line from journalists to informal advisers”, Kilmeade, co-host of the morning show Fox & Friends, texted: “Please, get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished.”

He later appeared on Fox News, stating: “I do not know Trump supporters that have ever demonstrated violence that I know of in a big situation.”

4

Sean Hannity with Donald Trump

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Sean Hannity

A prime-time Fox host who previously appeared with Trump at a campaign rally, Hannity texted Meadows asking: “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol.”

Instead, Trump “allegedly resisted calling in the National Guard to halt the violence”, The Times said, posting a video on his Twitter account hours later “urging his supporters to go home, while still claiming that the election was stolen”. Trump denies delaying a call to the National Guard.

Hannity later stated on Fox News that the “election, frankly, was a train wreck”, adding: “83%, according to Gallup, of Republicans, and millions of others, do not have faith in these election results. You can’t just snap your finger and hope that goes away.”

5

Unnamed Republicans

Meadows also received “messages from unnamed politicians and staff inside the Capitol grew increasingly desperate as the rioters broke in”, The Times reported.

According to Cheney, one wrote: “They have breached the Capitol.” Another added: “Mark, protesters are literally storming the Capitol. Breaking windows on [sic] doors. Rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?”

Moments before one protester, Ashli Babbitt, was shot dead by police as the attackers attempted to break through the door, an unnamed person inside the building wrote to Meadows: “There’s an armed stand-off at the House Chamber door.”

The messages show “the White House knew exactly what was happening”, Cheney told the inquiry, adding that another message read: “We are under siege.”

Committee members said “the texts illustrated what they said were crucial questions that only Meadows could answer”, Politico said. “How did he respond to these messages? Whom did he tell about them? And what actions did Trump take in response?”

The panel voted 9-0 to recommend that Meadows be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena. Meadows has not commented on the text messages or the contempt charge.

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