Mark Meadows sought a place beside Trump. He ignored the obvious risk | Opinion

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks on a phone on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on Oct. 30, 2020.

Patrick Semansky


What is striking about the indictments handed up in Atlanta on Monday night aren’t the details – much of them already known – but the number of people charged: former President Donald Trump and 18 others who conspired to upend a fair election.

It’s a legal reckoning not simply for Trump, but for those who fell in league with him out of greed, ambition, vanity or some perverse attraction to his awfulness. Prominent among the indicted is the former White House chief of staff who was supposed to steer Trump away from disaster – North Carolina’s own Mark Meadows.

The former congressman from the 11th District relished being a right-wing rebel as a House member. He pandered to then-president Trump and defended him reflexively no matter how outrageous or illegal Trump’s actions.

Meadows’ behavior showed sufficient servility to appeal to Trump’s preference for people he can manipulate. In March of 2020, Trump named Meadows his fourth and final chief of staff.

Meadows recounted his White House days in a fable presented as a memoir, “The Chief’s Chief.” A more accurate title would have been “The Chief’s Chief Enabler.” Here, for example, is how he described Trump’s incendiary Jan. 6, 2021, speech preceding many of his supporters attacking the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election.

Meadows wrote, “[Trump] wanted to make sure that all those people he had met over his four years — the ones who had shown up to every rally, listened to his speeches, and written him letters about their frustrations with the establishment — would have one more chance to come together, make their voices heard, and encourage each other.”

According to Meadows, Trump wasn’t inciting his followers. He was just presiding over a last MAGA hug before goodbye. Except Meadows knew Trump was trying to disrupt the process that would require him to abide in the peaceful transfer of power.

In December 2020, Meadows set up the call in which Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to make him the winner in Georgia. Meadows is also accused of trying to delay Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election and trying to interfere with a vote audit in Cobb County, Ga.

On Jan. 6, 2021, Meadows apparently did nothing as Trump’s political backers and his Fox News supporters deluged him with text messages urging him to get Trump to call off the Capitol rioters.

Instead of representing North Carolina in Congress, Meadows auditioned to be White House chief of staff. He got what he wanted. Now, charged with two crimes related to his efforts to appease Trump, he’s on his way to getting what he deserves.

Meadows, who now lives in South Carolina, joins the many who ignored the painful lesson others have learned: Those who join Trump put their reputations – and their freedom – at risk.

Among those who stormed the Capitol, 1,033 were arrested and 277 have been sentenced to time behind bars.

The chiefs of staff before Meadows were all humiliated and sullied by their unmanageable boss.

Many former Trump appointees and supporters are now his critics and eager to wash away their connection to him.

And yet, Trump rolls on, gathering strength among his core supporters with each indictment. In all likelihood, he will be the Republican nominee for president in 2024.

In North Carolina, Trump’s acolytes dominate the state Republican Party. Ted Budd rose to the U.S. Senate on the strength of Trump’s endorsement. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who outtrumps Trump on inflammatory statements, is the GOP’s leading candidate for governor. And U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, who voted to reject the legal results of the 2020 presidential election, is the GOP front-runner to become the state’s attorney general.

Mark Meadows offers North Carolina Republicans a cautionary tale of tying one’s reputation and fate to Trump, but the party’s base is ignoring the message.

So be it. Trump is heading to trial and his party is going with him.

Associate opinion editor Ned Barnett can be reached at 919-404-7583, or nbarnett@

This story was originally published August 15, 2023, 1:13 PM.

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