It was less than two weeks until President Donald J. Trump’s most ardent supporters in Congress would have what they considered as their final chance to sway the 2020 election, and Pennsylvania Republican Representative Scott Perry was becoming nervous.
“Time continues to tick away,” he wrote to Mark Meadows, then the White House chief of staff, in a text message, adding, “11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to the inauguration.” “Let’s get this party started!”
For more than a year, ultraconservative members of Congress have been implicated in efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power: they joined frivolous lawsuits, spread the lie of widespread election fraud, and were among the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying President Biden’s victory in at least one state on Jan. 6, 2021.
However, new evidence has emerged in recent days in the form of a court filing and text messages obtained by CNN, fleshing out the extent of their involvement with the Trump White House in strategy sessions, at least one of which included discussions about encouraging Mr. Trump’s supporters to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6, despite threats of violence. Even after a crowd of Mr. Trump’s fans invaded the property, some continued to campaign to keep him in office
“Several are stating the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall law,” Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote to Mr. Meadows on Jan. 17, 2021, misspelling the word “martial.”
The revelations highlight how deeply Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters in Congress were involved in the effort to overturn the election on several fronts, including a plan to appoint pro-Trump electors from states won by Mr. Biden — despite being told such a plan was illegal — and how they strategized to persuade their colleagues to go along.
“The fake electors scheme … and the plotting in the White House and on Capitol Hill about [having] Pence block or delay certification of the results are at the heart not just of the [1/6 committee] inquiry but also of an expanding DOJ criminal inquiry.” https://t.co/nQ5FZl8n9k
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) April 26, 2022
The fake elector’s scheme, the question of how demonstrators at Mr. Trump’s rally on the Ellipse on Jan. 6 were directed toward the Capitol, and the plotting in the White House and on Capitol Hill about Vice President Mike Pence’s potential to block or delay certification of the results are at the heart of not only the House select committee’s investigation on Jan. 6 but also an expanding criminal investigation by the Justice Department.
“We’re in a whole different world if there was a level of coordination that was aimed not just to exercise First Amendment rights, but to interfere with Congress as it certified the electoral count,” said Joyce Vance, a law professor at the University of Alabama and a former U.S. attorney. “There’s a distinction to be made between assembling and demonstrating and attempting to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power.”
At least 11 members of Congress, according to Cassidy Hutchinson, a former staffer to Mr. Meadows, were involved in discussions with White House officials about overturning the election, including efforts to urge Mr. Pence to toss out electoral votes from states won by Mr. Biden.
Mr. Perry, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, Representatives Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, and Debbie Lesko of Arizona, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, Representative Jody Hice and Ms. Greene of Georgia, Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, she said, were among those involved in the discussions at various points.
“They felt he had the authority to — pardon me if my phrasing isn’t correct on this, but — send votes back to the states or electors back to the states,” Ms. Hutchinson testified, adding that they appeared to embrace a plan promoted by conservative lawyer John Eastman that members of both parties have compared to a coup blueprint.
Mr. Perry, Mr. Gaetz, and Mr. Gohmert were there, according to Ms. Hutchinson, when White House lawyers advised the group that the proposal to utilize so-called alternative electors was not “legally sound,” but Mr. Meadows permitted it to proceed anyway.
Mr. Biggs endorsed the proposal early on, writing to Mr. Meadows on Nov. 6 that it was “very controversial, but it couldn’t be much more controversial than the craziness that was sitting out there presently.”