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Revelations jolt debate over Trump White House, Jan. 6 culpability

As part of the contempt process for Mark Meadows, the Jan. 6 committee's Liz Cheney read some explosive text messages sent during the attack.

At this point yesterday, we knew that the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack was scheduled to meet later in the day, at which point they'd likely vote to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt for failing to comply with its subpoena. And that is, in fact, what happened.

But what we didn't know was that the bipartisan panel would reveal some important information compiled by investigators, thanks in part to documents shared by Meadows — before he ended his cooperation.

Before digging in, let's note the topline result of last night's committee proceedings. NBC News reported overnight:

The nine-member bipartisan committee voted unanimously Monday to advance a contempt referral for Meadows to the full House. The House is expected to take up the measure Tuesday. A majority vote would result in the Justice Department's being asked to prosecute Meadows, a former House member. The Justice Department acted on a similar House recommendation for former Trump aide Steve Bannon, who faces two criminal charges. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in July.

If recent history is any guide, these events will unfold fairly quickly, following the vote from the full House. It also raises the prospect of a highly unusual event: A former member of Congress hasn't been held in contempt of Congress since the 1800s.

But as part of last night's proceedings, committee members also took some time to explain the importance of Meadows' unique perspective and the critical information he has about the January attack on the Capitol. Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel's Republican co-chair, read a series of text messages the former presidential chief of staff received on and around Jan. 6, shedding extraordinary new light on what was transpiring during the pro-Trump riot.

The White House knew what was happening during the attack: Cheney read specific messages, written by unidentified Republican members of Congress, who pleaded with Meadows to get Trump to intervene immediately. The then-president chose not to.

The texts help answer the question of culpability: The texts between GOP members and Meadows made clear that in the eyes of Trump's own congressional allies, there was no doubt that the rioters were attacking at the behest of the then-president, and he had the power to stop them. These facts are now politically inconvenient in conservative politics, but at the time, the truth was unambiguous.

So much for the GOP's revisionist history: It's become fashionable in Republican circles to whitewash the insurrectionist violence and recast the rioters as harmless "tourists." But during the attack, it was GOP lawmakers who not only recognized the seriousness of the assault on the Capitol, they also all but begged the White House to help save them.

Fox News hosts were among those sending text messages to Meadows: Cheney read texts sent directly from Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade, and Sean Hannity, each of whom sounded as if they were members of the Republican White House's political team, and each of whom recognized at the time that Trump had a responsibility to act. Ingraham, in particular, told the then-chief of staff, "Mark, the president needs to tell the people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy." These same Fox hosts later saw value in downplaying the importance of the attack.

Trump's own adult son knew, too: Donald Trump Jr. apparently recognized that his father wasn't doing enough to address the violence. Meadows responded, "I'm pushing it hard. I agree." Is this what a White House chief of staff would write if the president were taking the matter seriously and was fully engaged in trying to end the riot launched his own followers?

If you thought there's nothing new to be learned about the Jan. 6 attack, I have some bad news.

As the dust settles on these revelations, I also can't help but notice this information was in the materials Meadows was willing to share with the committee. If this is what the North Carolina Republican was comfortable disclosing, how explosive is the information he's now trying to hide?