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Once a conservative lawmaker, Mark Meadows now indicted

The North Carolina Republican left Congress early for a White House role that prosecutors say was used for criminal actions

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., one of Donald Trump's most vocal defenders in Congress before he took a job as White House chief of staff, talks with reporters before the continuation of the Trump impeachment trial in January 2020.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., one of Donald Trump's most vocal defenders in Congress before he took a job as White House chief of staff, talks with reporters before the continuation of the Trump impeachment trial in January 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Mark Meadows founded one of the most conservative groups in Congress, left early to be White House chief of staff for Donald Trump and now faces two state criminal charges related to the waning weeks of his time in that administration.

The North Carolina Republican was named in the sprawling 41-count indictment against Trump and a web of allies, as prosecutors laid out a sweeping criminal conspiracy to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia and other states in the 2020 presidential election.

Meadows first won his seat in Congress in 2012, representing a district in western North Carolina. Throughout his tenure in the chamber Meadows was one of the most conservative members of the House and backed a federal government shutdown in 2013.

He helped found the House Freedom Caucus in 2015 with eight other Republicans — a group that has since grown to a few dozen lawmakers and that has frequently wielded outsize influence over House politics.

Meadows and other members of the Freedom Caucus leveraged House procedures and at times narrow majorities to force rule changes or policy shifts. Shortly after the group’s founding, Meadows helped spearhead an effort to oust then-Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who would later resign that role.

Meadows, who would frequently chat with reporters at the Capitol, served as the House Freedom Caucus’ chairman from 2017 to 2019, and rose within the House Republican Conference, eventually becoming ranking member of the House Oversight committee.

During the first portion of the Trump administration, Meadows served as one of the president’s staunchest allies in Congress, including targeting Obama-era federal regulations for repeal.

He also served as a prominent critic of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and an adviser to Trump’s defense in his first impeachment trial in 2020.

During Trump’s initial political rise, he frequently turned to Meadows and other members of the House Freedom Caucus for defense on Capitol Hill, as well as to become officials in his administration.

Meadows announced in December 2019 that he would be leaving Congress. Trump tapped him to become his White House chief of staff in March 2020.

“This President and his administration have a long list of incredible victories they’ve delivered to the country during this first term,” Meadows said at the time. “With the best yet to come — and I look forward to helping build on that success and staying in the fight for the forgotten men and women of America.”

White House role

While in the White House, Meadows helped shape some of the most high-profile efforts of the final year of the Trump administration. That included the response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as shepherding Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

But according to the indictment Monday, Meadows also helped Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Meadows, Trump and 17 others “refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump,” the indictment said.

The indictment charged Meadows with participating in the broader conspiracy as well as solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer, and described several specific actions he took.

A representative for Meadows could not be reached Tuesday. But his attorneys filed a notice that asks a federal judge to dismiss the case or at least move it from state to federal court, arguing that the charges against him arise from actions he took as official duties as chief of staff.

Meadows took his first overt act helping Trump’s conspiracy on Nov. 20, 2020, at a White House meeting with a member of the Michigan state House where Trump discussed false claims of election fraud, the indictment states.

Throughout November and December, Meadows helped coordinate Trump’s communications with state officials trying to overturn the election as well as the plans to disrupt the Jan. 6, 2021, counting of electoral college votes, the indictment states.

Meadows also attempted to enter an election audit facility in Cobb County, Ga., on Dec. 22, the indictment alleged, but was stopped by election officials.

Meadows also participated in a Jan. 2, 2021, call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where Trump exhorted the election official to “find” enough votes to overturn the result in Georgia, the indictment states.

After the White House

Since the end of the Trump administration, Meadows had an antagonistic relationship with those investigating the attack on the Capitol and broader effort to overturn the election result.

He unsuccessfully resisted a subpoena to testify before the grand jury in the Georgia case and offered limited cooperation with the House select panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Meadows did not testify to the Jan. 6 panel. After providing text messages and other information to the committee he stopped cooperating and eventually launched a protracted lawsuit that lasted until the end of 2022.

While resisting testimony in the cases, Meadows also published a book about his time as Trump’s chief of staff.

The House Jan. 6 panel still made use of a trove of Meadows’ texts from his time in the White House — some of which also appear in the Georgia indictment.

Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked as Meadows’ aide during the end of the Trump administration, was one of the select panel’s star witnesses. She testified about Meadows’ involvement in the events leading up to the attack as well as Trump’s three-hour silence once rioters breached the Capitol.

The panel also made prominent use of Meadows’ text messages, including spotlighting an effort by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., to elevate Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark within the Justice Department.

Trump tried to promote Clark to acting attorney general as part of an effort to use the DOJ to declare the 2020 election corrupt, before several DOJ officials threatened to resign if he did so, they told the panel.

Eventually, his former colleagues in the House voted to hold Meadows in criminal contempt for refusing to cooperate with the probe.

The Justice Department ultimately declined to charge him.

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