In 2019, Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee as he was beginning his heel turn against former president Donald Trump. In response, then-congressman Mark Meadows brought Lynne Patton, a longtime aide to the Trump family, who was African-American, as a means to show the then-president was not racist.
When Rep Rashida Tlaib said Mr Meadows was using Ms Patton “as a prop” and called the act “alone racist in itself,” Mr Meadows took exception. The committee’s chairman, the late Elijah Cummings, noted he was friends with Mr Meadows and Mr Meadows and Ms Tlaib later hugged it out. It showed how Mr Meadows operated; through a combination of naked ambition, trying to play all sides and thinking of himself as clever when most saw him as scheming.
Now, Mr Meadows’ attempts might finally be catching up with him in Fulton County, Georgia, where he, Mr Trump and 17 other allies have been indicted for their sprawling attempt to overturn the 2020 election results in the state.
For years, Mr Meadows saw himself as a three-dimensional chess player, something he tried to do as Mr Trump’s chief of staff. He has once again tried a cleverly executed move in his attempt to move the case out of Fulton County to be heard in a federal court.
Throughout his testimony, Mr Meadows said he did not recall how the infamous call between Mr Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger – in which the defeated president tried to pressure the state official to “find” him enough votes to change the result – came to be. Similarly, when was asked whether the attorneys on the call worked for Mr Trump or his campaign, he said he was not sure.
For his part, Mr Meadows has said he wants to move the case to federal court since federal law allows for US officials to remove civil or criminal trials from state to federal court for alleged actions performed “under colour” of their offices. Mr Meadows has said his work was done under the auspices of his job as White House chief of staff, even though it appears he was doing so in his capacity to help Mr Trump win re-election.
Mr Meadows’s attempt to move the case to federal court echoes his entire tenure in Washington. The former congressman, with his ambition often so naked since he rarely cloaked it in humility, often saw himself as a playmaker but wound up having his plans blow up in his face.
Within days of his entering Congress in 2013, he attempted to depose John Boehner as speaker of the House, only to summarily waltz into the speaker’s office and literally get on his knees to beg for forgiveness. For his part, Mr Boehner never really forgave Mr Meadows, telling my friend Tim Alberta in Politico Magazine in 2017, “He’s an idiot. I can’t tell you what makes him tick.”
Similarly, my colleague Andrew Feinberg reported that in 2016, Mr Meadows tried to subvert the will of the people in North Carolina when he tried to send a slate of delegates to the Republican National Convention who supported Ted Cruz despite the fact the state voted for Mr Trump. Of course, little came of the alleged plan but it goes to show why Mr Meadows had few friends in state politics, with one person saying “he is a big, fat phoney.”
When he ultimately left his seat in Congress to join the Trump administration, Mr Meadows tried to convince the president to endorse a friend of his wife, which led to the beleaguered and scandal-plagued Madison Cawthorn winning the primary. It’s why one Republican operative in North Carolina told me in 2022 that “the original sin in all of this is the son of a b***h Mark Meadows.”
Later on, when Mr Trump contracted Covid-19 in October 2020, Mr Meadows blasted out a statement about the then-president’s health being in a dire situation after the White House physician had he was doing “very well.” It’s one thing to play both sides when trying to advance one’s own political career. It’s an entirely different matter altogether when trying to deliver a direct message about the health of a president.
In the same way, machinations and scheming might have helped Mr Meadows as he climbed the ladder in conservative politics. But what he may not realize either because he is too busy plotting his next step or he is not smart enough, is playing these types of games could literally cost him his freedom and send him to jail if he is not careful.
And one might imagine that all of the people who feel he double-crossed or deceived them will feel none too sorry for him.