It was just shy of six weeks after the 2020 election and Jason Miller, a top campaign adviser to former President Trump, had a problem.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who was playing a leading part in the campaign’s efforts to dispute the result, wanted to blast out a press release. It focused on thoroughly debunked conspiracy theories related to Dominion, a voting systems company that would later sue Giuliani for defamation.
In a text to Mark Meadows, Trump’s White House chief of staff, Miller indicated that others in Trumpworld had concerns about Giuliani’s release. Miller wanted Meadows to intervene and help shut it down.
12/14/20 2:55 p.m.
There was no response from Meadows in the log. Through a spokesperson, Meadows declined to comment.
The text from Miller, who did not respond to a request for comment, is one of more than a dozen related to Giuliani and his team in the trove of 2,319 messages that Meadows turned over to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. TPM has obtained the Meadows text log, which dates from the period between the election, Nov. 3, 2020, and Trump’s final day in office, Jan. 20, 2021. While the texts are not a complete record of Meadows’ communications during that period, they provide a dramatic illustration of how Giuliani’s team was consumed by election conspiracy theories. They also show how Giuliani was both a key player in the former president’s push to reverse his election loss and a divisive figure in Trump’s world.
Meadows’ messages also include multiple instances of the Giuliani team asking for payment for its services. Giuliani, a former mayor of New York City, had initially publicly claimed he “never had a single expectation of being paid a penny” for his work challenging Trump’s election loss.
Many of the messages relating to Giuliani are being reported here for the first time. For more information about the story behind the text log and our procedures for publishing the texts, read the introduction to this series. Giuliani did not respond to requests for comment made at four different phone numbers he has used regularly.
According to documents reviewed by the New York Times, Giuliani began working with Trump’s campaign on Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the election. By Nov. 7, as major media outlets called the election for Joe Biden, Giuliani was headlining the infamous Trump campaign press conference outside Four Seasons Total Landscaping, a local Philadelphia business, where he declared, without evidence, that the race was plagued by voter fraud. Despite Giuliani’s wild, baseless claims, experts and officials at every level of government — including members of Trump’s administration — have confirmed there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential race.
On Nov. 19, Giuliani held another press conference where he and attorney Sidney Powell outlined a theory of the 2020 election which attributed Biden’s win to an international necro-communist conspiracy helmed by deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Powell did not immediately respond to a request for comment. As he spoke at the press conference that Vanity Fair dubbed “batshit crazy” and New York Magazine described as simply “insane,” a substance that appeared to be hair dye oozed down Giuliani’s face. Based on a text she sent Meadows while Giuliani’s event was underway, Ginni Thomas, a GOP activist and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was oozing tears of happiness.
“Tears are flowing at what Rudy is doing right now!!!!????????” Ginni Thomas wrote.
Meadows, seemingly unsure if Thomas was expressing joy, confusion, or despair at Giuliani’s behavior, replied: “Glad to help??”
Thomas, who did not respond to a request for comment, clarified her own position in response: “Whoa!! Heroes!!!!”
The Meadows texts show in real time how different segments of Trumpworld and the GOP reacted to Giuliani and his team throughout the effort to reverse the results of the 2020 election. Giuliani took a leading role in that effort, overseeing litigation across the country that sought, using faulty and even fraudulent evidence, to strip Biden of his win and award it to Trump.
Some, like Thomas, applauded Giuliani’s efforts, while others, like Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), dismissed an appearance that the former New York City mayor made in Phoenix as “the circus” coming to town in one of his many texts to Meadows.
“Frigging Rudy needs to hush…” wrote Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) to Meadows in a Nov. 22 thread bemoaning the lack of a “controlled message” in Trumpworld’s efforts to overturn the election result. Both Biggs and Roy did not respond to requests for comment. Ginni Thomas’ messages with Meadows were previously reported by the Washington Post. Roy’s texts were published by CNN.
“If we don’t get logic and reason in this before 11/30 – the GOP conference will bolt (all except the most hard core Trump guys,” Roy also wrote.
That deadline for “logic and reason” came and went. The next day, on Dec. 1, Bernie Kerik texted Meadows that he was “airborne on the way to Michigan from Arizona.”
Kerik, Giuliani’s former police commissioner and a convicted felon, had stood behind Giuliani at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping parking lot presser. He was tapped by Giuliani to come up with allegations of voter fraud that Rudy could fling before state legislatures, the press, and anyone who would listen.
But for that, Giuliani and his team needed to get paid. As he flew to Michigan on Dec. 1, 2020, money is what Kerik wanted from Meadows. He said he was in touch with another member of the Trump legal team, Christina Bobb, and the campaign’s COO, Mike Glassner. Unlike the legal challenges, Glassner’s employment with the campaign had apparently ended after the election.
12/1/20 4:46 p.m.
The text log does not include a response from Meadows to Kerik’s request for cash. Kerik did not respond to a request for comment.
Giuliani’s fees made headlines following his work on the election challenges. In late January 2021, the Times obtained an email from Giuliani’s reported girlfriend and associate, Maria Ryan, where she asked Trump campaign officials for “$20,000 a day which will include all of the expenses for Mr. Giuliani and his staff.” When the newspaper asked about his fee, Giuliani insisted he did not want to be paid and had done the legal work “out of my sense of commitment.”
“I feel extremely bad that I’m portrayed as some kind of money-grubbing ambulance chaser,” said Giuliani, whose personal financial issues have also made headlines.
While Meadows’ texts paint Giuliani as a controversial figure within Trumpworld, they also indicate how central he was to the president’s efforts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 race. Meadows’ messages indicated multiple Trump allies were working with Giuliani or directed his way, including Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward; former Florida attorney general and Trump impeachment lawyer Pam Bondi; Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA); Roy; Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), who was playing a key part in the election challenge in his home state; former Georgia Sen. David Perdue; and Rep-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).
Bondi told TPM via text that she did not work on the election reversal effort after the result was certified. None of the other people mentioned in the text log as working with Giuliani responded to TPM’s requests for comment about their work with the former mayor.
In a message that was first reported by CNN, Sean Hannity, a Fox News host who also advised Meadows, indicated that “if this doesn’t end the way we want,” he wanted to do “3 things together” with Meadows and an unidentified person named “Jay.” Those were: “1 – Directing legal strategies vs Biden 2- NC Real estate 3- Other business I talked to Rudy.”
TPM reached out to Hannity to discuss his connections to Giuliani on Wednesday evening. He was apparently not pleased.
“Number one, you’re not allowed to get my number,” Hannity said, adding, “What are your questions?”
When he was informed about the subject of this story, Hannity declared, “You want any interview with me, you have to go through Fox PR.” After assuring Hannity that we would also contact Fox News’ spokeswoman, Irena Briganti, TPM asked him if he thought it was “appropriate” for a member of the political media to do business deals with associates of the former president.
“You think it’s appropriate when you know Fox’s rules to bypass Irena and call me directly?” Hannity asked incredulously, before adding, “You can take your predetermined outcome, which is already written in your head, and write whatever the hell you want. I don’t give a shit. You knew the rules and you didn’t care.”
Hannity subsequently hung up the phone. Briganti did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While Giuliani clearly had some allies in Trumpworld, throughout the messages, others expressed varying degrees of worry to Meadows over aspects of the former mayor’s involvement. On Dec. 6, 2020, a little over a week before his attempt to stop Giuliani’s press release, Miller, the Trump campaign adviser, was also running interference on a “draft GA legislature petition” Giuliani was trying to circulate.
“Chief – need your advice here. Rudy sent me this draft GA legislature petition this evening and asked me to put together a release for Sunday morning blast out, but you’ve made clear who is running our GA efforts,” Miller wrote. “I’m the only one Rudy sent this to besides Jenna and Boris, so it’s not like a bunch of people know about it, but I don’t want to screw up our other efforts. All guidance appreciated, as the legal turf war thing is new to me!”
Meadows responded that he would review the documents from Giuliani and “run it by Cleta,” an apparent reference to Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who was working on challenges to the election. Mitchell did not respond to a request for comment.
The texts also provide a glimpse into the conspiracy-fueled counsel being offered by Giuliani and his associates. By mid-December, the Trump effort to reverse the election result was flagging.
Giuliani’s legal campaign had been a resounding failure. The Trump campaign, under his direction, had testified before hearings in states across the country and filed dozens of lawsuits, all with no result: they lost in all the court cases, and no state legislature was swayed.
Those close to Giuliani began to drift further away from reality with the defeats.
Maria Ryan, Giuliani’s reported girlfriend and associate, texted Meadows on Dec. 19 that he should consider appointing Ken Cuccinelli to be a “special counsel for election integrity” over Sidney Powell, the right-wing attorney who appeared alongside Giuliani at the November presser. Ryan, a former hospital CEO, also seemingly wanted John Ratcliffe, who was Trump’s director of national intelligence, to declare there was “foreign interference” in the election. That strategy was popular among some Trump allies who believed it could trigger an executive order that would grant Trump wide leeway to impose sanctions. Ryan hinted at her doctorate in health care administration as she peppered Meadows with her legal and national security opinions.
12/19/20 12:41 p.m.
Ryan did not respond to a request for comment.
On Jan. 4, 2021, as Trump headed to Georgia for a rally in the state that was a focal point of the election push and playing host to a crucial Senate runoff, Ryan sent Meadows a file that seemed to reference conspiracy theories that people cast fraudulent votes on behalf of deceased citizens. While it was not viewable in the text log, the title of the document was “GA dead voters – Geels.xlsx.”
Ryan followed that up by sending Meadows a pair of messages indicating that she spoke with Trump, who had “asked for some talking points for tonight.” Her proposed talking points weren’t so much an itemized list as they were a 1,429-word rant arguing that “the Presidential election of 2020 will go down in history as the most fraudulent election…a direct assault on the American people.” Ryan appeared to have pasted the text multiple times over the course of two sprawling messages to Meadows.
The guidance for Trump in Ryan’s epic magnum opus touched on every page in the election conspiracy playbook. She referenced Dominion machines, an infamous report from Michigan that was based on faulty, mixed-up numbers and false claims about modems in voting equipment.
Ryan was particularly interested in a video that showed Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shay Moss doing their jobs, but which was distorted by Giuliani and others to be evidence of fraud. Ryan called the clip the “Zaprota film” in the text to Meadows, an apparently butchered reference to the Zapruder film, which captured the Kennedy assassination.
“The attempt to steal this election will be a part of our history, an infomous part forever. Attached to it, like the Zaprota film is to the Kennedy assasination, is the 9 hour tape on November 3 and 4 of the theft of 130, 000 votes,” Ryan wrote.
Without any actual evidence, Ryan’s messages claimed there were 10,000 dead voters and over 66,000 underage voters in Georgia along with thousands of illegitimate votes in Pennsylvania. Both messages ended with what were essentially strings of random, unsourced numbers:
“Mail ballots sent before request 5,629 Dominion Spikes 50,000 149,772 -200,000 Election official fraud 682,777 30,000 Over votes 205,122 11,676 Out of state Voters 14,328 2468 4926 Unregistered voters 4502 Illegal Absentee 170,140 Voters over the age of 100 1,573 147,228=Biden Total 972,727 123052 54,369 167,099 119,989”
It’s not clear what Meadows did with the file, or the talking points. The log includes no responses to Ryan, including to a text that she sent on Jan. 8 demanding payment.
“Dear Mr. Meadows,” she wrote. “I was instructed to speak to you about Payment for Mr.Giuliani’s legal services. Please give me a call at your earliest convenience. Kindest regards, Maria.”