Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows turned over to the House select committee investigating the 6 January Capitol attack a PowerPoint recommending Donald Trump to declare a national security emergency in order to return himself to the presidency.
The fact that Meadows was in possession of a PowerPoint the day before the Capitol attack that detailed ways to stage a coup suggests he was at least aware of efforts by Trump and his allies to stop Joe Biden’s certification from taking place on 6 January.
The PowerPoint, titled “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 Jan”, made several recommendations for Trump to pursue in order to retain the presidency for a second term on the basis of lies and debunked conspiracies about widespread election fraud.
Meadows turned over a version of the PowerPoint presentation that he received in an email and spanned 38 pages, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The Guardian reviewed a second, 36-page version of the PowerPoint marked for dissemination with 5 January metadata, which had some differences with what the select committee received. But the title of the PowerPoint and its recommendations remained the same, the source said.
Senators and members of Congress should first be briefed about foreign interference, the PowerPoint said, at which point Trump could declare a national emergency, declare all electronic voting invalid, and ask Congress to agree on a constitutionally acceptable remedy.
The PowerPoint also outlined three options for then vice-president Mike Pence to abuse his largely ceremonial role at the joint session of Congress on 6 January, when Biden was to be certified president, and unilaterally return Trump to the White House.
Pence could pursue one of three options, the PowerPoint said: seat Trump slates of electors over the objections of Democrats in key states, reject the Biden slates of electors, or delay the certification to allow for a “vetting” and counting of only “legal paper ballots”.
The final option for Pence is similar to an option that was simultaneously being advanced on 4 and 5 January by Trump lieutenants – led by lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, as well as Trump strategist Steve Bannon – working from the Willard hotel in Washington DC.
The Guardian revealed last week that sometime between the late evening of 5 January and the early hours of 6 January, after Pence declined to go ahead with such plans, Trump then pressed his lieutenants about how to stop Biden’s certification from taking place entirely.
The recommendations in the PowerPoint for both Trump and Pence were based on wild and unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, including that “the Chinese systematically gained control over our election system” in eight key battleground states.
The then acting attorney general, Jeff Rosen, and his predecessor, Bill Barr, who had both been appointed by Trump, by 5 January had already determined that there was no evidence of voter fraud sufficient to change the outcome of the 2020 election.
House investigators said that they became aware of the PowerPoint after it surfaced in more than 6,000 documents Meadows turned over to the select committee. The PowerPoint was to be presented “on the Hill”, a reference to Congress, the panel said.
The powerpoint was presented on 4 January to a number of Republican senators and members of Congress, the source said. Trump’s lawyers working at the Willard hotel were not shown the presentation, according to a source familiar with the matter.
But the select committee said they did find in the materials turned over by Meadows, his text messages with a member of Congress, who told Meadows about a “highly controversial” plan to send slates of electors for Trump to the joint session of Congress.
Meadows replied: “I love it.”
Trump’s former White House chief of staff had turned over the materials to the select committee until the cooperation deal broke down on Tuesday, when Meadows’ attorney, Terwilliger, abruptly told House investigators that Meadows would no longer help the investigation.
The select committee announced on Wednesday that in response, it would refer Meadows for criminal prosecution for defying a subpoena. The chairman of the select committee, Bennie Thompson, said the vote to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress would come next week.
“The select committee will meet next week to advance a report recommending that the House cite Mr Meadows for contempt of Congress and refer him to the Department of Justice for prosecution,” Thompson said in a statement.