Meadows’ ‘Protect Pro Trump People’ Email May Explain Military Reluctance To Deploy Troops

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WASHINGTON ― An email authored by Donald Trump’s chief of staff in the run-up to the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol may help explain military leaders’ reluctance to deploy troops that day: Doing so could have forced troops to choose between following the orders of their direct commanders or obeying the commander in chief of the United States armed forces.

Mark Meadows wrote that the National Guard would be deployed to “‘protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby,” according to the resolution by the House committee investigating Jan. 6 that recommends referring criminal contempt of Congress charges against Meadows to the Department of Justice.

The resolution did not specify the recipient of that note or when it was sent.

Top military officials in the Trump administration’s final days have previously said they were concerned that Trump would try to use the military to remain in power. At the time, describing his goals through the end of Trump’s term, acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller told associates “No military coup, no major war, and no troops in the streets,” according to the book “Betrayal,” by ABC’s Jon Karl.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley also worried about a coup, and told colleagues that Trump had become “the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose,” according to the book “I Alone Can Fix It,” by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker.

One source familiar with the Jan. 6 committee’s work said the worry about troops potentially receiving “conflicting orders” ― one set via the non-political military chain of command, to protect the constitutional process, and the other from Trump himself, designed to let him retain power ― was a real concern in early January.

Indeed, every single living former defense secretary, including the two who had served under Trump, signed on to an extraordinary op-ed published in The Washington Post on Jan. 3, reminding service members that it was both inappropriate and illegal to get involved with elections.

“Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory,” the former secretaries wrote. “Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.”

Concerns about having thousands of National Guard troops on the ground on Jan. 6, and susceptible to Trump’s attempts to use them for his own ends, were part of a broader worry that Trump would try to abuse his power as commander in chief to remain in the White House despite losing the 2020 election.

Top Trump White House aide Peter Navarro has repeatedly complained on Trump adviser Stephen Bannon’s podcast that the military leadership refused to back Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, which he, like Trump, falsely claims was fraudulent.

Another Trump confidant, his first national security adviser Mike Flynn, actually recommended that Trump invoke martial law to seize voting machines in states Joe Biden had won, and force them to hold their elections a second time. A similar plan was laid out in a 38-page slideshow in Meadows’ possession that he turned over to the Jan. 6 committee. Under this plan, Trump forces would seize all the ballots and hand them over to a Trump partisan for hand-counting.

Trump did not go along with these schemes, though, after top officials at the White House, including the lawyers in the counsel’s office, threatened to resign en masse if he did.

However, Meadows, the highest-ranking White House official, continued to push false election conspiracy theories, bringing their proponents to visit with Trump directly, one senior Trump White House staffer said on condition of anonymity.

Meadows did not respond to HuffPost’s queries about his email.

Monday evening, the House committee voted unanimously to refer criminal contempt charges to the Justice Department. It now goes to the full House for a vote.

Meadows becomes the third Trump associate to be referred by the committee for contempt, along with former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark and top Trump White House aide Stephen Bannon. Clark’s referral is awaiting a vote by the House, while Bannon has already been indicted by a grand jury.

Trump, who lost the election by 7 million votes nationally and 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of U.S. elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. His incitement of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol ― a last-ditch attempt to remain in office ― killed five people, including one police officer, as well as injuring another 140 officers and leading to four police suicides.

Despite this, Trump remains the dominant figure in the Republican Party and is openly speaking about running for the presidency again in 2024.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.