The curious case of Mark Meadows

What to make of the curious case of Mark Meadows? Donald Trump’s former chief of staff raised eyebrows — and whetted appetites — last month when he agreed to cooperate with the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot.

A week later, Meadows broke the agreement he had reached with House investigators, refused to cooperate any further and sued the committee to override a subpoena on his phone records. But Meadows seems to have cooperated for long enough to hand over nearly 10,000 pages of evidence to the committee. Some of the evidence in these pages, including messages sent to the president’s right hand man as the Capitol was under attack, was revealed yesterday ahead of a vote to hold Meadows in criminal contempt.

In one message, Donald Trump Jr. says his father “has got to condemn this shit ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough.” Meadows agreed with the president’s son and said he was “pushing it hard.” Trump Jr. replied: “We need an Oval Office address. He has to leave now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”

There are many mysteries in the Meadows saga: what explains his swerving between cooperation and obstruction? Why did his deal with investigators collapse?  When it comes to the events of January 6, Meadows can offer plenty of detail of exactly what the president did once he knew what was happening at the Capitol.

But a few things are crystal clear. Among them: the White House knew exactly what has happening and was, to put it generously, slow to act. “What did the president know and when did he know it?” is the famous Watergate formulation. In this case, it is not an especially difficult question.

The texts also leave prominent media figures red-faced. Among the texts on Meadows’s phone were pleas from Fox hosts. Laura Ingraham advised, “the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home… this is hurting all of us… he is destroying his legacy.” Her colleague Brian Kilmeade pleaded Meadows to “get [Trump] on TV… Destroying everything you have accomplished.” Sean Hannity asked: “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol.” The messages blow up any pretense that cable news figures (on both the left and the right) aren’t partisan hacks both advising, as well as reporting on, the White House.

None of this is to say that January 6 was a tragedy on a par with 9/11, as some overblown criticism has it. Nor is it to agree with Biden’s characterization of the Capitol riot as “the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.” But it wasn’t a hoax or a peaceful protest or whatever the latest half-hearted line of defense happens to be. And Trump’s part in the events of that day, from whipping up his supporters with a lie about the election to failing to intervene as the crowd ransacked the Capitol, would fill a better man with shame.

The House committee already has a trove of information from Meadows. A criminal contempt vote may force him to testify. Whether or not Meadows plays ball, the picture of January 6 is only going to get more complete. And it is unlikely to get any more flattering for the former president.

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Raimondo’s China connection

Gina Raimondo is one of the Biden administration’s most dovish voices on China. At a time when more and more policymakers accept at least a partial decoupling from the Chinese economy, the commerce secretary has called for stronger business ties between the world’s two top powers and opposed efforts to block Chinese technology firms cooperating with US companies.

And so it seems noteworthy that, as the Washington Free Beacon reports, Raimondo’s husband is a top executive at an artificial intelligence company that counts a Chinese state-backed venture capital firm as a major investor. Andy Moffit is chief people officer at PathAI, which has received seed funding from Danhua Capital, which Reuters says was established as part of the Chinese government’s “penetration of Silicon Valley.”

In the emerging great power competition with China, is it too much to ask for a ruling class that’s not financially committed to America’s adversary?

Biden’s Afghanistan understatement

In the panicked days of the botched Afghanistan withdrawal, Joe Biden and other senior White House figures said that “about 100 to 200” US citizens remained in Afghanistan. Those estimates no appear to have badly underestimated the number of Americans in the country.

A State Department press release published Monday boasts that since August 31, the United States as “directly assisted 479 American citizens and 450 lawful permanent residents [in addition to their immediate families] to depart Afghanistan.” The administration now estimates that “fewer than a dozen” Americans are still in the country and trying to leave. But the previous understatement of the problem surely puts that figure in some doubt.

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Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 43.1 percent
Disapprove: 50.3 percent
Net approval: -7.2 (RCP Average)

Support for making it illegal for companies to deny service or employment to the non-vaccinated
Support: 51 percent
Oppose: 48 percent (Ipsos-Axios)

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