It was six months ago yesterday when former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows agreed, at least initially, to cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. The Republican soon after changed his mind, but during that brief window, Meadows shared quite a bit with congressional investigators.
In fact, he shared thousands of texts that have proven to be among the most important White House disclosures in American history. Meadows’ treasure trove has exposed brutal truths about Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, the Jan. 6 attack itself, Republican lawmakers’ misconduct, and wildly unethical actions from conservative media figures.
The seriousness of the revelations has not escaped Meadows’ former boss. In fact, this afternoon, Trump presented his new idea to address the unfolding controversy in a written statement. Here’s the former president’s pitch in its entirety:
“I immediately call for the release of all text messages sent to and from Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff during their attempt to overturn the 2016 Presidential Election. They spied on my campaign, they spied on my transition team, and they even spied on the White House while I was in the Oval Office. They did everything they could to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, and stop the ‘Will of the People’ with their Russia, Russia, Russia Hoax, Mueller Scam, and more. I wonder what the texts would reveal? Unlike my Chief of Staff, which show patriotic Americans concerned about illegal and massive Election Fraud in 2020, I say bad things would be revealed.”
Before we get to the forest, let’s take stock of some of the trees.
1. Trump is a private citizen. For him to “immediately call for the release” of anything carries roughly the same amount of weight as you or I doing the same thing.
2. There was no “attempt to overturn the 2016 presidential election.” In fact, Barack Obama welcomed Trump to the White House less than 48 hours after the race was called, and Trump repeatedly and publicly thanked Obama for his graciousness.
3. No one spied on the Trump campaign, the Trump transition, or the Trump White House.
4. No one did “everything they could to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power,” as evidenced by the fact that there was a peaceful transfer of power. To see an example of someone doing “everything they could to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power,” the former president should try reading the Meadows’ texts.
5. Trump’s 2016 election didn’t reflect the “Will of the People” — his idiosyncratic approach to grammatical rules continues to amaze me — since he came in second in the popular vote.
6. The Russia scandal and the Mueller investigation were very real, the ridiculous “hoax” talk notwithstanding.
But as notable as these details are, what’s especially entertaining about Trump’s hapless pushback is that it’s little more than an exaggerated example of whataboutism.
Texts from the Republican’s former White House chief of staff have proven to be scandalous in historically significant ways. Confronted with this inconvenient fact, Trump’s new idea is to effectively say, “Oh, yeah? Well, I bet texts from Obama’s former White House chief of staff might be scandalous, too.”
Even by Trump standards, this is just pitiful.