The Slatest

Trump’s Chief of Staff Meadows Pushed DOJ to Probe Crazy Election Fraud Conspiracy Theories

Then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows waves as he arrives for a Donald Trump campaign rally at Waukesha County Airport in Waukesha, Wisconsin on October 24, 2020.
Then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows waves as he arrives for a Donald Trump campaign rally at Waukesha County Airport in Waukesha, Wisconsin on October 24, 2020. MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

As Donald Trump’s presidency was coming to an end, his closest allies were ready to cling on to any conspiracy theory that could keep the president in power. And fresh evidence shows there didn’t seem to be anything too wild that they weren’t willing to try to get the federal government to explore. Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, pushed the Justice Department to investigate several conspiracy theories related to the election, reports the New York Times. Five emails provided to Congress show that in late December and early January, Meadows called on Jeffrey Rosen, who was the acting attorney general at the time, to investigate baseless allegations of fraud.

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From the emails it seems no theory was too crazy to investigate. Meadows even called on Rosen to explore a conspiracy theory that made the rounds claiming that people in Italy had tampered voting machines in the United States with the help of military technology and satellites. Rosen was even asked to set up a meeting between the FBI and a man who had pushed the “Italygate” conspiracy online. He refused to set up the meeting and people close to him insist he never looked into any of the conspiracy theories, which included false claim of voter fraud in New Mexico and Georgia. But the emails served as yet another reminder of how Trump thought the Justice Department was there to do his bidding. “This new evidence underscores the depths of the White House’s efforts to co-opt the department and influence the electoral vote certification,” said Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Even if nothing came of the request to open up the investigations, the simple fact that Meadows reached out to Rosen so frequently was severely out of the norm considering long-standing guidelines pretty much forbid White House personnel from contacting the Justice Department on investigations. “The Justice Department’s enforcement mechanisms should not be used for political purpose or for the personal benefit of the president. That’s the key idea that gave rise to these policies,” said W. Neil Eggleston, who served as President Barack Obama’s White House counsel.

How crazy was the Italygate conspiracy theory? When Media Matters for America wrote about it in January it said it illustrated “just how nutty the world of right-wing conspiracy theories has become.” The conspiracy theory at the time was “bouncing around the dregs of the internet,” MMFA’s Parker Molloy wrote. Reuters wrote a fact-checking piece on the theory and deemed it to be false.

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