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Mark Meadows and Mike Pence live in a legal and political purgatory with little hope of redemption
You don’t have to like Donald Trump to go along with him. This is the story of two men who were very close to Trump during the final phase of using “stop the steal” as a cover story while the real stealing went on. Vice President Mike Pence was as pliant and genial an advocate for the Tump administration, and Trump personally, as any VP could ever be. Mark Meadows was probably the most effective chief of staff the Trump White House had over its four tumultuous years.
Mike Pence told Erick Erickson that he didn’t need to debate Trump on stage, because he had debated him “a thousand times” without the cameras running. So did everyone who had access to the Oval Office, which doesn’t really qualify Pence for sainthood as the one normie in a sea of nuts. Unfortunately, Pence was the one man who became the key to John Eastman’s crackpot plan for a putsch against the United States government. There’s little room for praise, from the boss (“a traitor!”), or from the public.
Kevin Williamson went biblical on Pence, who wears his faith like a flag.
There are a couple of possible ways to read Pence’s refusal of Trump’s demand: We might be generous and assume that Pence is a patriot and a man of honor—one who takes seriously an oath ending in the words “so help me God”—and acted as he did out of the best of motives. But there is not much evidence that Pence is a patriot or a man of honor, one who takes seriously an oath ending in the words “so help me God.” I know that sounds harsh, and I’ll come back to it directly.
I prefer to believe that Pence did his best to be a man of honor, and a patriot, and took his “so help me God” seriously. Of course, that required a suspension of disbelief that the man he was hitching his political wagon to was not in fact the scorpion soliciting a ride across the river, but a fellow pilgrim on the journey, who could be guided or persuaded over time. But it’s easy to call the plays from the relative ease of an armchair, especially when the game is over and your team lost, though I can see Williamson’s point.
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Nobody forced Mike Pence to accept his place on the ticket with Trump. Nobody forced him to campaign for Trump in 2016, or defend Trump’s policies for four years. Nobody forced him to campaign for Trump in 2020. But when the actual plan to illegally retain power came up, Pence finally refused to take part. That doesn’t make him a hero, but it does keep his name out of the list of indicted people.
After such poor judgment—even if it were examined in the best, most favorable light—how could Pence think he can run for president, or even stand in the way of Trump winning the nomination? I suppose you could like at Pence’s campaign as a form of penance, a self-sacrifice to atone for the sins of the past seven years. I don’t believe in purgatory, theologically, but politically, this is exactly where Pence sits. It’s unlikely he’ll find redemption in this world, not as a politician, at least.
Mark Meadows, however, indulged and feasted on MAGA. The Congressman from North Carolina’s 11th district represented the western part of the state where Trump triumphed in 2016 and won every county in 2020. Meadows took the thankless job of White House Chief of Staff, adding his name to the sad list of people who tried to work with Trump: Reince Priebus (the Stay Puft Marshmallow man who destroyed the GOP and then melted), Gen. John Kelly, and Mick Mulvaney (who didn’t want the job in the first place). His successor in Congress was Madison Cawthorn, a man only slightly less a scumbag than George Santos.
Meadows wallowed in text messages with the MAGA insiders and media sycophants. The reason we know this is because Meadows decided to cooperate with the J6 committee and hand over these text messages, knowing they’d end up leaked and public. Once Trump’s term ended in disgrace, Meadows went from basking in MAGA to playing legal pickleball to keep himself out of prison. The New York Times expressed it thus:
But when prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, challenged Mr. Trump’s executive privilege claims before a judge, Mr. Meadows pivoted. Even though he risked enraging Mr. Trump, he decided to trust Mr. Smith’s team, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Meadows quietly arranged to talk with them not only about the steps the former president took to stay in office, but also about his handling of classified documents after he left.
The episode illustrated the wary steps Mr. Meadows took to navigate legal and political peril as prosecutors in Washington and Georgia closed in on Mr. Trump, seeking to avoid being charged himself while also sidestepping the career risks of being seen as cooperating with what his Republican allies had cast as partisan persecution of the former president.
Meadows didn’t manage to get himself out of Fulton County DA Fani Willis’s radar. However, his motion to remove his trial to federal court may disconnect him from Trump in the RICO case.
Mark Meadows is what I would call a snake in the grass. He’s not going to try to save any skin except his own. Going back to armchair quarterback mode, we always knew it would end up “every man for himself” at the end.
The unfortunate part of this is that Meadows may yet end up convicted, abandoned by Trump to his own fortune. Pence may never recover. But Trump, even though one his own trials will overlap primary season, has a shot at the presidency again. I know, everyone says it’s impossible, but it is not impossible. Not yet at least.
The scorpion is still trying to cross the river. The frogs he discarded along the way are nobody’s heroes.
Pray for the folks in the gulf coast of Florida. Idalia is now a category 1 hurricane heading straight for them. Also, Ukraine may have breached some of Russia’s defensive line by taking the village of Robotyne. There’s a lot of defended territory between that town and the Sea of Azov, but it does mean that Ukraine’s attacks are not completely without effect.