Donald Trump Jr. said in a series of text messages to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that his father needed to “condemn” the US Capitol insurrection as it unfolded.
The messages from Trump Jr. — which the House select committee investigating the January 6 riot revealed before voting to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress — provide a window into the kind of urgent messages that top Trump surrogates and officials traded as the riot unfolded.
“‘He’s got to condemn this sh*t ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough,'” Trump Jr. wrote in one message to Meadows, according to the committee’s vice chairwoman, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
Cheney detailed that when Meadows had texted back that he agreed, Trump Jr. said: “We need an Oval office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
Only after pleading from aides and congressional allies inside the besieged Capitol on January 6 did the former President release a taped video urging the mass of his supporters to “go home,” while still fanning their misplaced grievances about a stolen election.
Cheney said Monday that other texts about the attack were sent in real time.
“These text messages leave no doubt: The White House knew exactly what was happening here at the Capitol,” she said.
The congresswoman read aloud the messages — which she said had been sent between Meadows and lawmakers, Fox News personalities and the then-President’s son — during the meeting, saying:
- “One text Mr. Meadows received said, ‘We are under siege here at the Capitol.'”
- “Another, ‘They have breached the Capitol.'”
- “In a third, ‘Mark, protesters are literally storming the Capitol. Breaking windows on doors. Rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?'”
- “A fourth, ‘There’s an armed standoff at the House Chamber door.'”
- “And another, from someone inside the Capitol, ‘We are all helpless.'”
“Dozens of texts, including from Trump administration officials, urged immediate action by the President,” Cheney continued in her reading, saying:
- “‘POTUS has to come out firmly and tell protesters to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed.'”
- “Another, ‘Mark, he needs to stop this. Now.'”
- “A third, in all caps, ‘TELL THEM TO GO HOME.'”
- “A fourth, and I quote, ‘POTUS needs to calm this sh*t down.'”
“Indeed, according to the records, multiple Fox News hosts knew the President needed to act immediately,” Cheney said, adding: “They texted Mr. Meadows, and he has turned over those texts.”
- “Quote, ‘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 texted.”
- “‘Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol?’ Sean Hannity urged.”
“As the violence continued,” Cheney said, “one of the President’s sons texted Mr. Meadows.”
- “Quote, ‘He’s got to condemn this shit 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,” Cheney detailed, adding that “Donald Trump Jr. texted again and again,” urging action by his father.
- “Quote, ‘We need an Oval office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand,’ end quote.”
When the certification of the Electoral College vote eventually happened in the early hours of January 7, Meadows received a text calling January 6 a “terrible day.”
“Yesterday was a terrible day. We tried everything we could in our objections to the 6 states,” the text read, according to Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who’s a member of the panel. “I’m sorry nothing worked.”
The texts, as several members of the committee noted, had already been turned over to the committee and are not covered by any claim of privilege — which Meadows has continued to assert since reversing his decision to cooperate with the investigation.
Members on Monday voted to formally advance the criminal contempt report against Meadows for a full floor House vote, which could take place as soon as Tuesday. The vote by the full House is the last step before sending the referral to the Justice Department.