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Phil Waldron

It is easy to understand why Mark Meadows fears testifying before the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack about his role in former President Donald Trump's attempted coup against the United States. The former White House chief of staff played a central role in that seditious conspiracy. Would he perjure himself to protect Trump?

Unfortunately for Meadows, who clearly isn't the brightest bulb, he surrendered a truckload of evidence implicating himself and others in the plot before he decided suddenly to stop cooperating with the select committee. After incriminating himself, perhaps he'll take the Fifth. Too late.

Even before the committee subpoenaed Meadows, copious evidence of his participation in Trump's plot had emerged, — notably his fraudulent efforts to alter the election outcome in Georgia, where, along with Trump, he personally sought to coerce the state's lead elections investigator and pressured the secretary of state to "find" an additional 11,780 Trump votes.

What they tried to do in Georgia, however, was only a single episode in a much broader set of schemes, now disclosed in a 34-page PowerPoint document that Meadows turned over to the committee. That presentation, heavily decorated with cartoonish "Trump Wins!" graphics, outlines the bogus conspiracy theories advanced after the election by Trump lawyers Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell: for example, that the Chinese Communist Party, through voting machine firms it supposedly controlled, manipulated electronic ballots to ensure a victory for its "ally" President Joe Biden.

No shred of proof exists to support any of these fevered fantasies, nor for the far-fetched legal corollary theories that Giuliani, Powell and other Trump lawyers promoted in courts around the country. They were shot down by judges, everywhere, and both Powell and Giuliani face bar disciplinary action for those ethical offenses, as well as lawsuits filed by the voting-machine firms they smeared. Worse, Meadows and Trump had been informed by Attorney General William Barr that there was no evidence of significant fraud in the election. Can Meadows be certain Barr hasn't already testified to the committee about what he did?

Every citizen who cherishes democracy should read those PowerPoint slides, which illustrate how close we came to losing everything that "makes America great." The presentation confirms the elements of the conspiracy known already and reveals even more sinister aspects that involved the potential use of military force in a planned coup.

Meadows says he received the memo from outside the White House -- presumably via a retired military officer and "information warfare" specialist named Phil Waldron, who apparently met and spoke repeatedly with the then-chief of staff, briefed other top Republicans on Capitol Hill, and advised Giuliani. The memo's justifications and proposals to overthrow the election were reflected in real events that occurred, notably the efforts to suborn then-Vice President Mike Pence.

Indeed, the presentation outlines how Pence was expected to exceed his ceremonial role on January 6 by rejecting electoral votes from states where "fraud occurred," thereby awarding a false victory to Trump. Alternatively, Pence would delay the election certification to permit a "vetting and subsequent counting" of paper ballots only after authorities could "weed out" allegedly "counterfeit" votes, both electronic and paper.

The PowerPoint memo describes the specifics of the military coup advocated by Powell and her former client Mike Flynn, the disgraced national security adviser, pardoned by Trump for his corruption. The document states: "A Trusted Lead Counter will be appointed with authority from POTUS to direct the actions of select federalized National Guard units and support from (Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security) and other US government agencies as needed to complete a recount of the legal paper ballots for the federal elections in all 50 states."

Marshalls would seize the voting machines and ballots from state and local governments and commence a militarized recount under Trump's control. This would all occur within five to 10 days after January 6 — and would, at least in the absurd imagination of the PowerPoint's authors, allow "any US citizen" to "view them and count the ballots themselves." (Nobody seems to have considered how long it would take for anyone watching this spectacle to actually count the 159 million votes cast by eligible voters in 2020, although Trump plainly aimed to disqualify most of them.)

About this plan we need to know much more, which is why the select committee aims to prosecute Meadows and any other conspirators who resist testifying for contempt. Whatever privilege he seeks to claim, the former chief of staff voided that by giving this document and many others to the committee as well as publishing a memoir. He is still withholding thousands of pages of text messages and other evidence from the committee.

More importantly, Meadows undoubtedly knows more about who devised these schemes, who was supposed to execute them — and whether anyone presented them to Trump, for whom a slide presentation was undoubtedly the only means to command his attention for a few dozen pages.

The plot to overturn the 2020 election, in all its dimensions, represents the most serious transgression against the United States since the Civil War. That enormous crime must be fully exposed and its perpetrators prosecuted if the rule of law is to have any meaning.

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