On January 5, former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows received a 38-page PowerPoint presentation outlining a blatant strategy to destabilize democracy. Meadows passed up the evidence to a select Congressional committee looking into the events leading up to the January 6 assault on the United States Capitol.
While it is an impressive presentation, a detailed review of the turbulent days after the 2020 presidential election shows that the PowerPoint’s major points closely reflect what Trump said publicly. The media, on the other hand, has labeled the PowerPoint’s contents as “extreme” and “wild,” putting doubt on whether its proposals were “seriously… considered.” This is revisionist history at work.
Meadows tried to dismiss interest in the paper via his counsel. Meadows’ attorney, George J. Terwilliger III, told reporters that Meadows “merely received it by email in his inbox and did nothing with it.” However, Phil Waldron, a retired colonel involved in the PowerPoint’s creation, told the Washington Post that he talked with Meadows “eight to ten times” and briefed other members of Congress on the PowerPoint before January 6.
While the 38-page PowerPoint has not been made public, a 36-page version that is said to be almost identical has appeared online. On page 23, there is a crucial slide with a list of “Recommendations.”
The first proposal — alerting members of Congress on possible “foreign interference” — was carried out, according to Waldron. Waldron informed the Washington Post that he briefed Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and others in Congress who he did not name. Neither Johnson nor Graham refuted Waldron’s assertions.
Trump did not “declare” a “national security emergency” in the end. However, in his address before the incident on January 6, Trump portrayed the acknowledgement of Biden’s win as a “national security” danger.
We won — we won in a landslide. This was a landslide. They said it’s not American to challenge the election. This the most corrupt election in the history, maybe of the world…In fact, it’s so egregious, it’s so bad that a lot of people don’t even believe it. It’s so crazy that people don’t even believe it. It can’t be true. So they don’t believe it. This is not just a matter of domestic politics, this is a matter of national security.
These remarks may have been a prelude to a statement if his attempts to prevent the certification of Biden’s win on January 6 were successful and he was able to gain the assistance of the national security establishment.
On Twitter, Trump openly urged Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to utilize his “emergency” powers to overturn the state’s presidential election results.
Trump spoke many times, without proof, about “foreign influence and control of electronic voting systems.” In a November 29, 2020 appearance on Fox Business, Trump said that votes recorded on Dominion voting machines “are counted in foreign countries.” He repeated the same claim in a recorded speech released on December 2, 2020.
On December 22, 2020, Trump promoted a tweet in his feed encouraging Pence to reject the electors certified by the Electoral College in order to defend the country from “China, Russia, Iran.”
Trump lacked the authority to invalidate all electronic ballots. He did, however, announce that all electronic voting was invalid, erroneously alleging that it had been compromised by fraud. On November 26, 2020, Trump will deliver a Thanksgiving address to soldiers throughout the globe in which he would claim that computerized elections are “rigged” and that only paper ballots are accurate.
[P]aper ballots are, frankly, the only thing that really you’re going to get an accurate tab on because those machines are fixed, they’re rigged. You can press Trump and the vote goes to Biden. All you have to do is play with a chip, and it’s shown all the time. All you have to do is play with a chip, and they played with a chip, especially in Wayne County and Detroit. You take a look. In Philadelphia, you take a look. We’ve had excellent meetings with senators from Pennsylvania, Republican senators and others, and they’re seeing things.
Trump made similar remarks on December 2, 2020, when he informed the nation that no computerized results could be accepted and that the country needed to “go to paper.”
It’s name is Dominion. With a turn of a dial, with a change of a chip, you can press a button for Trump and the vote goes to Biden. What kind of a system is this? We have to go to paper. Maybe it takes longer. But the only secure system is paper, not these systems that nobody understands including in many cases the people that run them.
The other important slide in the PowerPoint is on page 34 and is titled “Options for 6 JAN.”
Pence might refuse to count or acknowledge any or all of the electors submitted to him in any of the three scenarios. That, of course, is exactly what Trump openly urged Pence to do. Trump spent most of his speech on January 6 browbeating Pence to act:
Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. All he has to do — All this is — This is from the No. 1, or certainly one of the top Constitutional lawyers in our country. He has the absolute right to do it. We’re supposed to protect our country, support our country, support our Constitution, and protect our constitution.
…I just spoke to Mike. I said, “Mike, that doesn’t take courage. What takes courage is to do nothing, that takes courage.” And then we’re stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot and we have to live with that for four more years. We’re just not going to let that happen.
It’s unknown how much impact the PowerPoint had on Trump or his close team. But it’s not because the PowerPoint suggested a more “extreme” or “wild” plan than Trump executed. It was much the same. Trump had the intention to overthrow the democratic process, but he lacked a strategy to carry it out.
In 2020, Trump required cooperation from Pence, state officials, Congress, and the national security apparatus that he did not get from Pence, state officials, Congress, and the national security apparatus. It’s possible that the next time will be different. Trump is attempting a more sophisticated effort to install his friends at all levels of government as 2024 approaches.