By Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen and Annie Grayer | CNN
Two days after the 2020 presidential election, with the votes still counting, Donald Trump’s eldest son texted White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that “we have operational control” to ensure his father would get a second term, with Republican majorities in the U.S. Senate and swinging state legislatures, CNN has learned.
In the text, which has not been previously reported, Donald Trump Jr. lays out ideas for keeping his father in power by reversing the Electoral College process, according to the post reviewed by CNN. The text is among documents obtained by the House Select Committee investigating on Jan. 6, 2021.
“It’s very simple,” Trump Jr. emailed Meadows Nov. 5, adding later in the same missive, “We have many paths, we control them all.”
In a statement to CNN, Trump Jr. attorney Alan S. Futerfas said, “After the election, Don received many messages from supporters and others. Given the date, this message probably came from someone else and was forwarded.
The Nov. 5 text message outlines a strategy that is nearly identical to what the former president’s allies have attempted to implement in the months that followed. Trump Jr. specifically refers to filing lawsuits and promoting recounts to prevent some swing states from certifying their results, as well as a handful of Republican state houses offering lists of bogus “Trump voters” .
If all that fails, according to Trump Jr.’s text, GOP lawmakers in Congress could simply vote to reinstall Trump as president on Jan. 6.
“We have operational control of full leverage,” the post read. “Moral High Ground POTUS must start 2nd term now.”
Trump Jr.’s text is revealing on several levels. It shows how those closest to the former president were already exchanging ideas on how to cancel the election months before the Jan. 6 uprising – and before all the votes were even counted. It will be two more days before the mainstream media declares Joe Biden the winner on November 7.
The text also adds to a growing body of evidence of how Trump’s inner circle was actively engaged in discussions about how to challenge the election results.
On March 28, Judge David Carter, a federal judge in California, said Trump, along with conservative attorney John Eastman, had launched an “unprecedented” campaign to overturn a Democratic election, calling it a “coup.” in search of a legal theory”.
George Terwilliger, a Meadows attorney, declined to comment for this story. A spokesperson for the House Select Committee declined to comment.
Foreshadowing of Trump’s campaign strategy
In the weeks following the 2020 election, Trump and his allies ultimately filed more than 60 unsuccessful lawsuits in key states, failing to convince the courts that his claims about a stolen election were justified, or uncovering any evidence. of widespread electoral fraud.
They also called for various recounts based on those same unsubstantiated voter fraud allegations. A number of states conducted recounts in the months following the election, though none uncovered fraud significant enough to have altered the outcome of the vote in any state.
While Trump Jr. publicly pushed various voter fraud conspiracy theories and generally questioned the results in states like Pennsylvania and Georgia, his Meadows text reveals that other ideas were being discussed privately.
Specifically, Trump Jr. outlines a strategy to supplant genuine voters with fake Republican voters in a handful of states. This plan was ultimately orchestrated and executed by allies of the former president, and supervised by his lawyer at the time Rudy Giuliani.
In his text to Meadows, Trump Jr. identifies two key dates in December that serve as deadlines for states to certify their election results and compel Congress to accept them. Although the dates are largely ceremonial, in his text Trump Jr. appears to point to them as potential weaknesses to be exploited by casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election results.
Looking for Trump voters
Trump Jr.’s Nov. 5 text to Meadows came as similar notions of faithless voters began to spread publicly on conservative social media. Trump Jr. sent the text to Meadows at 12:51 p.m., just minutes after conservative radio host Mark Levin tweeted a similar idea and suggested state legislatures have the final say on voters.
If the secretaries of state were unable to certify the results, Trump Jr. argues in his text to Meadows that they should press their case by bringing in the Republican-controlled state assemblies and proposing separate lists of “Trump voters,” he writes. .
“Republicans control Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, etc., we get Trump voters,” adds Trump Jr.
Trump Jr.’s text, however, refers to an untested legal theory that state houses are the ultimate authority in elections and can step in to come up with a different list of voters than that chosen by voters. when in reality it is a ceremonial process. and the result is essentially an anticipated conclusion.
The Department of Justice and the House Committee both investigate the fake voter conspiracy in the context of what unfolded on January 6 and Trump’s broader efforts to cancel the election.
The strategy launched by Trump Jr. is similar to that described by former Texas Governor and Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry. who texted Meadows on November 4 suggesting that three state legislatures ignore the will of their constituents and deliver their states’ voters to Trump.
“HERE’S an AGGRESSIVE STRATEGY (sic): Why can’t GA NC PENN states and other R-controlled state houses (sic) declare this to be BS (where conflicts and elections are not called that night) and just send their own voters to vote and have them go to the SCOTUS,” Perry’s text message read.
A spokesperson for Perry told CNN at the time that the former Energy Secretary denies authoring the text. However, several people who know Rick Perry previously confirmed to CNN that the phone number the committee associated with this text message is Perry’s number.
“We control them all”
Trump Jr. also sends a text message to Meadows indicating that Congress could intervene on January 6 and overturn the will of voters if for some reason they were unable to obtain enough electoral votes to tilt the result. in favor of Trump using the state-based strategy.
This option, according to Trump Jr.’s text, involves a scenario in which neither Biden nor Trump has enough electoral votes to be declared the winner, prompting the House of Representatives to vote by state party delegation, with each state getting a vote. voice.
“Republicans control 28 states, Democrats 22 states,” writes Trump Jr. “Once again, Trump wins.”
“Either we have a vote that WE control and WE win, OR it goes back to Congress on January 6, 2021,” he wrote to Meadows.
In a series of memos in early January, Conservative lawyer John Eastman proposed a variation of this idea.
Eastman’s memo laid out a six-step plan for Vice President Mike Pence to overturn Trump’s election, which included rejecting results in seven states because they would have competing voters. In fact, no state had actually offered an alternative list of voters — there were only Trump allies claiming no authority to be voters.
Eastman, who was subpoenaed by the House Select Committee and is fighting to keep some of his files secret from investigators, was accused by Carter of possibly engaging in a criminal conspiracy with Trump to void the election.
“Dr. Eastman has an unblemished record as a lawyer and respectfully disagrees with the judge’s findings,” his attorney Charles Burnham said in response to the judge’s ruling.
Trump Jr. pushes Meadows to fire Wray and install FBI loyalist
Trump Jr. ends his Nov. 5 text by calling for a litany of staff moves to consolidate his father’s control over the government by placing loyalists in key positions and launching investigations into the Biden family.
“Fire Wray; Fire Fauci,” he wrote, referring to FBI Director Christopher Wray and White House coronavirus adviser Anthony Fauci. Trump Jr. then moved to appoint former acting director of national intelligence Ric Grenell as the acting head of the FBI and to ask then-Attorney General Bill Barr to “select a special prosecutor on HardDrivefromHell Biden crime family.”
As Trump refused to concede in the days and weeks following the 2020 election, rumors swirled that he was still planning to fire Wray, along with several other senior officials with whom he had become frustrated.
Trump and his allies sharply criticized Wray for failing to produce information they believe would be harmful to the president’s political enemies, including Biden. CNN previously reported that the prospect of Trump firing Wray hung over the FBI for weeks, dating back to before Election Day.
While Wray remains in his post and Barr resigned in mid-December 2020 without appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the Bidens, Trump Jr.’s text highlights how precarious the situation at the DOJ was in the aftermath of the election.
The same goes for Trump Jr.’s recommendation that Meadows replace Wray with Grenell, someone who not only lacked the usual qualifications to run the FBI, but also had a proven track record in submitting the law. ‘former president.
After serving a controversial three-month term as Trump’s acting intelligence chief, Grenell entered the campaign trail in late 2020 to help promote Trump’s unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud and support his legal challenges. in a key state: Nevada.
On Nov. 5, Biden held a slim lead over Trump in Nevada but looked set to win all six electoral votes in the state. That same day, campaign officials Grenell and Trump announced they were filing a new lawsuit to “stop illegal vote counting,” but offered no evidence to support their allegations of widespread fraud.