You know the country is in trouble when the voice of reason is Donald Trump Jr. The former president’s noxious eldest son has an affinity for white supremacists, but when the Capitol riot erupted, he texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows urging action by the president. “He’s got to condemn this s— ASAP.”
The communications disclosed Monday by the House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 make several things clear. The first is that even diehard Trumpers close to the president were shocked by the attack. The second is that they knew their efforts to blame it on leftist “antifa” radicals were fraudulent.
The last, and most important, is that President Donald Trump was not appalled by the violence. For him, it was a dream come true.
Meadows himself, the second-highest ranking official in the White House and normally an obedient enabler of Trump, was among those who wanted the president to call on the mob to disperse. “I’m pushing it hard,” he replied to Trump Jr. “I agree.”
One Fox News personality after another expected Meadows to do the right thing. Sean Hannity urged him to get Trump to “make a statement” and “ask people to leave the Capitol.” Laura Ingraham told him that Trump “needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”
Hannity and Ingraham promoted the absurd claim that the riot was the work of antifa militants. But their text messages confirm that they knew better. If leftists were behind the attack on the Capitol, there would have been no point in getting Trump to intervene.
Just the opposite: A White House plea for peace would have confirmed that their “false flag” event was damaging his cause, as they intended. Trump’s allies thought only Trump could stop the attack because they knew the attackers were loyal to him.
People arrested for their role in the insurrection, by the way, have left no doubt of their allegiance. “It was not Antifa at the Capitol. It was freedom loving Patriots who were DESPERATE to fight for the final hope of our Republic,” tweeted one. “Don’t you dare try to tell me that people are blaming this on antifa and BLM,” another posted. “We proudly take responsibility for storming the Castle.”
The texts should put to rest any fantasy that Fox News is a legitimate news organization — a right-leaning counterpart of CNN. Hannity, Ingraham and others at Fox spread the lie, which they knew was a lie, that antifa was to blame. In their reports Monday on the House investigation, Hannity and Ingraham also withheld the newsworthy fact of their communications with Meadows on Jan. 6.
But the person most incriminated by these revelations is Trump himself. There can be no doubt that he knew what his violent followers were trying to achieve by rampaging through the halls of Congress, beating Capitol police officers and hunting for Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi — and that he approved of their tactics.
For hours he declined to speak forcefully to restore order. The violence began at 12:53 p.m., and by 2:11, the mob was in the building. At 2:30, fearful senators began evacuating their chamber, followed shortly by House members.
But Trump never even ordered the National Guard into action. It was Pence, from his hiding place, who called to make that request of the acting Defense secretary — and the troops didn’t move until 5:02.
Not until 4:17 did the president put out a video asking the rioters to “go home” — while assuring them: “We love you. You are very special.” At 6:01, he tweeted: “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” Trump felt no shame or regret.
The new evidence fits perfectly with the account by ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl in his book “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show.” He reports that Trump watched the melee on TV and rebuffed pleas from House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and others.
Trump “didn’t want to hear any of it,” writes Karl, based on interviews with numerous senior officials and Trump confidants. “He saw the day as a triumph.”
Had the insurrectionists succeeded in overturning the election, they would have dealt a severe and possibly fatal blow to American democracy. But for Trump, that would have been the ultimate triumph.