The text messages sent to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on January 6 – from the likes of Donald Trump Jr. and a bevy of Fox News personalities – are, without a doubt, revealing. They suggest that – despite attempts by these people to downplay the events of that day – they were fully aware of just how bad this was for the country and then-President Donald Trump.
But it’s actually a text sent from a number CNN has reported is associated with and registered to former Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry – on November 4 – that truly speaks to the lengths many within the Republican party were willing to go to keep Joe Biden from being elected. (Perry, through a spokesman, denies he sent the text.)
Here’s the text:
“Here’s an aggressive strategy: Why can t [sic] the states of GA NC PENN and other R controlled state houses declare this is BS (where conflicts and election not called that night) and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS.”
Just to be totally clear, here is what was being proposed the day after the election: In any state that had not yet been called for Biden or Trump and/or any state where there were “conflicts” where Republicans controlled the state legislature, they should simply declare the election moot and send their own preferred electors instead.
This is – in case you missed every class of high school civics – deeply anti-democratic. Just because a state hadn’t been called on the day after the election is absolutely no reason to circumvent the electoral process.
Lots of states – particularly ones with large populations where the race is close – take a day (or two or three) to count all of their votes. That has always been true but even more so in the 2020 election in which the Covid-19 pandemic led to far more ballots being cast by mail rather than in person.
Make no mistake: What is being proposed is the disenfranchisement of millions of voters who followed the rules and deserved to have their votes counted.
The sentiment expressed in the text to Meadows echoes much of the tone of the speech Trump gave late on election night as the outcome was still very much in doubt.
Here’s the key bit:
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election. We did win this election. So our goal now is to ensure the integrity for the good of this nation. This is a very big moment. This is a major fraud in our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list. OK? It’s a very sad moment. To me this is a very sad moment and we will win this. And as far as I’m concerned, we already have won it.”
Trump was dead set on driving a narrative that because he was ahead in a handful of swing states – like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – that anything that changed that result meant there was election fraud. But, that was never the case. There was nowhere close to 100% of precincts reporting in any of those states when Trump made his victory declaration.
What Trump was trying to do was declare that he had won the game even though he was winning by one point with three minutes left in the third quarter. That’s not how any of this works.
Trump’s speech – and the text we now know was sent on November 4 to the then-president’s chief of staff – make clear that an effort to undermine democracy was under way even as votes in many states were still being counted. This wasn’t about irregularities in the vote that turned up weeks after the November election. This was about stopping an election while you were still ahead – democracy be damned.