Editor’s note: Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst, is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and author of the forthcoming book “The Presidency of Donald J. Trump: A First Historical Assessment.” Follow him on Twitter @julianzelizer. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. See more opinion on CNN.
Another batch of text messages obtained by the House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6 reveals just how much discussion and deliberation has taken place over former President Donald Trump’s attempts to void the 2020 election.
The recent disclosure relates to approximately 100 text messages that Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Representative Chip Roy of Texas sent to former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows (who is currently under investigation by North Carolina Election Fraud Report).
The texts reveal how Republicans like Lee and Roy were willing to be foot soldiers for Trump as they desperately searched for evidence and messages to further his cause. Even though they eventually backed down when the danger of the strategy became clear, the new evidence paints a damaging portrait of lawmakers as they pushed Trump to meet with lawyers like Sidney Powell and John Eastman, who tried and ultimately failed to launch successful legal assaults. on the election.
It is alarming to read how eager Lee was to support Trump’s efforts to challenge the election results without any supporting evidence. On Nov. 7, Lee sent a message he hoped Meadows would pass on to Trump, offering “unequivocal support for you to exhaust all legal and constitutional remedies available to you to restore Americans’ confidence in our elections.” He added, “Stay strong and keep fighting, Mr. President.” Like many Republicans, Lee was all for it as Trump set out to challenge the legitimacy of an election that made him a one-term president.
But Lee and Roy also shared their frustrations with Meadows over how to make a convincing case in an attempt to help Trump. On Nov. 7, Roy texted Meadows, “Man, we need ammo. We need examples of fraud. We need it this weekend. And on Nov. 20, Lee echoed a similar sentiment when he reached out to say, “Please give me something to work with. I just need to know what to say.
Interestingly, Roy privately acknowledged the dangers of what Trump was trying to do as early as November 9. He wrote, “We must urge the President to tone down the rhetoric and approach the legal challenge with firmness, intelligence and efficiency without resorting to throwing desperate reapers or whipping his base into a conspiracy theory. Trump, of course, did just that.
Eventually, both men issued warnings to Meadows after it was clear that Trump was aiming for states to send alternative voter lists to Congress. On Jan. 1, Roy wrote, “If POTUS allows this to happen…we drive a stake through the heart of the federal republic. Two days later, Lee wrote, “I only know this will end badly for the President unless we have the Constitution on our side. He went on to add that it could ‘everything turn badly’.
The private correspondence uncovered by the committee adds another layer to the understanding of the effort to undermine the election, which was, for the most part, conducted in broad daylight. Trump began spreading lies about voter fraud in the spring of 2020, and many journalists sounded the alarm. Barton Gellman, for example, wrote an article published in the Atlantic in November 2020 describing how the election could “break America.”
On election night, while the votes were still being counted, Trump brought it all to the public when he held a jaw-dropping press conference where he claimed victory and the alleged states counted the illegitimate ballots. “We will go to the Supreme Court of the United States,” he said. “We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them finding ballots at 4am…and adding them to the list.
The nation watched as the former president’s legal team continued to challenge the legitimacy of the election, only to be thrown out by the courts. Despite the lack of fraud, many Trump supporters in Congress have not called on the president to stop. Even after the Electoral College met and voted Dec. 14 to affirm Joe Biden’s victory, the “Stop The Stealing” campaign did not end.
Anyone could watch Trump’s remarks on TV, read his Twitter feed, or listen to comments from prominent Republicans to see the effort escalating. On December 14, Forbes reported on the plot to get alternative voters, assembled by the Trump campaign team in battleground states, to vote for him. And on Fox and Friends, White House adviser Stephen Miller said: ‘As we speak today, an alternate list of voters in disputed states will cast their ballots, and we will send those results to Congress. .”
Even as Sen. Mitch McConnell reportedly told Republicans they had to accept the results on Dec. 15, lawmakers like Mo Brooks of Alabama publicly declared their refusal to do so. “I find it unfathomable that anyone would go along with election theft and voter fraud because they don’t have the guts to vote hard in the House or the Senate,” the congressman said. in an interview. Sen. Ted Cruz and a number of Republican lawmakers released a statement ahead of Jan. 6 challenging the validity of the election and announcing their intention to oppose certification of electoral votes, even as their colleagues like Lee and Roy privately urged the administration to stop.
And the scathing speeches delivered by the Ellipse in the early afternoon of January 6, before the attack on Congress, were all exposed to American eyes. “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you won’t have a country,” Trump told the crowd.
The findings of the select committee are extremely important and the investigation is essential to ensuring that the leaders of our democracy are held accountable. Without congressional committees or the Department of Justice exercising this kind of vigilance, power can never be checked and restrained. We need to fully understand how the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol unfolded and whether there is a basis for criminal charges.
Equally important right now is each politician’s stance on what happened that day. With the approach of the mid-term, each new text reminds that every senator and representative must be urged to make a firm and clear statement of their position when it comes to attacking the leader of the nation against the legitimacy of an established government. election.
The Select Committee does vital work. Without accountability, democracy withers on the vine. The extraordinary events surrounding January 6 have revealed that strong safeguards are no longer in place.