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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
The Charlotte Observer Editorial Board

Editorial: The ongoing threat to democracy can be found inside Mark Meadows’ phone

Republicans have been crowing about the “Twitter Files” and Hunter Biden’s laptop, but maybe it’s Mark Meadows’ texts they should have been worried about all along.

Thousands of text messages that Meadows turned over to the House’s Jan. 6 committee were obtained by Talking Points Memo, shining new light on the role that Meadows and other Republican officials played in the effort to overturn the 2020 election.

The more than 2,300 texts detail the extent to which Donald Trump’s allies floated conspiracy theories, absurd legal tactics and even violence. As Trump’s chief of staff, Meadows was at the center of these discussions, communicating with members of Congress, state officials and far-right activists, according to Talking Points Memo. In total, 34 Republican members of Congress appear in the texts — four of whom, like Meadows, hail from North Carolina.

Rep. Greg Murphy, who represents North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, sent Meadows an article from a far-right website suggesting that Republican state legislatures could simply declare Trump the winner in their states.

“Why are we not pursuing this theory?” Murphy wrote to Meadows.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ted Budd was telling Meadows there were links between Dominion Voting Systems and billionaire George Soros, a ridiculous yet persistent conspiracy theory that has been firmly debunked.

Budd appeared again as one of several Trump allies who reminded Meadows of the hard work they were doing to help overturn the election and requested presidential pardons for their pals in the same breath. In late December 2020, Budd asked Meadows if there was anything he could do to “help get Robin H on the pardon list” before adding that — by the way! — he was one of the Republicans planning to object to the electoral certification on Jan. 6.

Reps. Richard Hudson and Dan Bishop were also identified in Meadows’ text message log, according to Talking Points Memo, but the content of their messages has not been published.

It hasn’t been a very good week for Meadows, all things considered. The Jan. 6 committee is reportedly weighing criminal referrals for Meadows and other top Trump allies. (Meadows has already received at least one subpoena from the Justice Department, which he complied with.)

Also this week, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation announced it had completed its investigation into voter fraud allegations against Meadows and submitted the file to the state’s attorney general, who will determine whether criminal charges are appropriate. The allegations came to light in March after The New Yorker revealed that Meadows was registered to vote at a mobile home in Macon County that he apparently had never owned or resided in.

For Meadows and others like him, the law seems to be merely a suggestion — a pesky hurdle on the road to getting what they want. In this case, what they wanted was to subvert the will of millions of American voters, and they very nearly succeeded.

Such behavior is dishonorable. It is unpatriotic. It reflects an utter contempt for democracy, for the rule of law and especially for the Constitution — something that every single member of Congress took an oath to uphold. It remains to be seen, however, whether they will suffer any consequences for conspiring against their country.

Anyone who is willing to even entertain the thought of overturning an election does not belong in Congress, or any public office. While Meadows may no longer be serving in any public capacity, many of those who exchanged texts with him remain in Congress. Some of them will wield significant influence when Republicans control the House come January. Budd, of course, has been promoted to the U.S. Senate.

Trump is not an aberration within the Republican Party. Whether Trump himself is the disease or merely a symptom is a different conversation, but it is clear that the disease is not limited to Trump alone. Meadows’ texts reveal that many Republicans were not merely complicit — they were willing soldiers in Trump’s bogus battles.

Of everything we’ve learned since Jan. 6, the primary takeaway is this: these threats to democracy will not go away on their own. They are sitting in the highest levels of government, and as long as they remain there, the danger does, too.


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