Two days after Election Day, Donald Trump Jr discussed a plan to “control” the outcome of the 2020 presidential election with his father’s chief aide, revelations that former Trump administration officials and legal experts say show the extraordinary depths the former president planned to maintain power , before results were even finalized.
In text messages reported by CNN and obtained by a congressional probe into the events leading up to and surrounding the 6 January, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, Trump Jr told then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows “we have operational control” and “multiple paths” to determine the outcome.
“This is what we need to do, please read it and please get it to everyone that needs to see it because I’m not sure we’re doing it,” he told Mr Meadows.
Former Trump White House communications official Alyssa Farah told CNN that the texts reveal the “level of desperation” among administration and campaign officials in the aftermath of the election, and how officials were “going to use every level of the federal government as well as legislatures that were friendly to them to try to cling to power”.
Democratic US Rep. Ted Lieu, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, suggested the texts are evidence of conspiracy.
“Donald Trump Jr was texting Mark Meadows about how to keep his father in power before the presidential race was even called. Let that sink in,” said government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner called the texts evidence of “treasonous criminality”.
“How long do we have to endure this open treasonous criminality by Trump and company before someone gets indicted?” he said.
Harvard Law School’s Laurence Tribe called the evidence “a smoking rifle”.
Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer during George W Bush’s administration, said the texts are evidence of “an attempted putsch”.
“He belongs in the slammer!” he said on Twitter.
The texts – in which it is unclear whether Mr Meadows ever responded – show the former president’s oldest son outlining a strategy in which Republican-controlled-state legislatures and US senators would determine the Electoral College outcome to ensure Mr Trump’s victory.
A statement from Mr Trump Jr’s attorney Alan Futerfas to CNN confirmed the message, adding that the former president’s are “received numerous messages from supporters and others” and that “given the date, this message likely originated from someone else and was forwarded”.
The texts are among the latest revelations from the House select committee’s investigation into the events leading up to and surrounding the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, 2021, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the halls of Congress to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidency.
Another group of messages obtained by the committee show Ginni Thomas – the conservative activist and wife of current US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas – urging Mr Meadows to stop the “heist” of the election by the “Biden crime family” and amplifying baseless claims about election fraud that circulated among conspiracy theory communities online.
In the months leading up to the election, before a single ballot was cast, Mr Trump repeatedly claimed that the outcome would be “rigged” against him and sought to undermine the validity of mail-in ballots. His campaign by him, administration officials, the US Department of Justice and election officials and administrators and multiple state-level audits across the US have found no evidence of widespread vote fraud.
Yet Mr Trump Jr’s text message on 5 November, 2020 – two days after Election Day – outline a strategy that the former president’s aides, attorneys and other officials in his circle sought to carry out in the months that followed, including spurious lawsuits in swing states that he lost, and relying on GOP-dominated state legislatures to block their states’ results from certification and install illegitimate “alternate electors” to seat Mr Trump for a second term.
In January, a judge in Georgia authorized a special grand jury in the criminal investigation of the former president’s election-time conduct in the state, including a call from Mr Trump to state election officials to help him “find“enough votes to win the state.