Most recently seen in public (via e-mail, anyway) hawking a conspiracy theory that Italian satellites stole the 2020 election for President Joe Biden, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows actually has a terrible new project: working with Stephen Miller on an effort called America First Legal, which should really be called Whites First Legal. On behalf of white Texans who run at least one of the 25 restaurants in the Lost Cajun chain, they recently succeeded in getting a federal judge to stop the Small Business Administration’s disbursement of restaurant Covid relief funds that prioritized businesses owned by women, veterans, and people of color, blocking money already approved for almost 3,000 struggling businesses.
This might seem like small potatoes, or little crawdads if you prefer, given all that we’re learning about the efforts Meadows and others made to help Trump steal the election. But these scandals are related; this is what’s going to happen if Democrats don’t hold these people accountable. Mark Meadows should spend years testifying in congressional oversight committees, criminal trials, perhaps even doing a stint in prison. (Not positive on that last point.) Instead, he’s (still) making money promoting white supremacy.
Also on the board of America First Legal? Former acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker, whom Marcy Wheeler labeled the “Big Dick Toilet Salesman.” Seriously, Whitaker was once on the board of fraud-committing World Patent Marketing, which actually sold a patent for a “masculine toilet” product to serve the needs of poor, beleaguered over-endowed men. Whitaker, you may recall, succeeded Jeff Sessions as attorney general after Trump kicked him to the curb and before the crime-wild president found his Roy Cohn, William Barr.
Not just Meadows but also Miller, Whitaker, and, of course, Barr should never be allowed to forget, or walk away from, the abuses of power they abetted and committed working for the disgraced, twice-impeached ex-president. They should be tied up in congressional testimony and court dates indefinitely. Tuesday’s release of a trove of utterly corrupt e-mails, from Meadows and others to the Justice Department sad sacks left holding the bag when Barr fled is just one of many department scandals we’ve learned about over the past 10 days. We know that yet- unidentified Justice Department officials also sought the communications data of journalists, House Democrats (and their staff and family), and White House Counsel Don McGahn, for reasons unclear but clearly legally questionable.
In the e-mails just released by the House Oversight Committee, we are treated to the spectacle of Trump and his few remaining White House minions begging the post-Barr Justice Department to abet their ridiculous attempts to undo the election results. By far the most ludicrous plea came directly from Meadows himself. Its subject line—“Brad Johnson: Rome, Satellites, Servers: an Update”—referred to a conspiracy theory that Italian communications technology was used to make US voting machines switch ballots from Trump to Biden. It was about as nutty as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s theory that a “Jewish space laser” was responsible for California wildfires. When the acting attorney general Jeffrey A. Rosen sent it to his deputy attorney general, Richard Donohue, the latter shot back: “Pure insanity.”
There are lots of examples of Rosen and Donohue rebuffing attempts by Meadows and others to enlist the Justice Department in their various bogus schemes to prove the election was stolen. They ranged from trying to get the department behind a brief to the US Supreme Court, asking it to throw out results in six states, to investigating bogus election fraud claims from Michigan to New Mexico to Georgia. Rosen and Donohue reply in all the right ways, refusing to even meet with Rudy Giuliani at one point.
But, while laudable, their e-mails read like records they created for posterity. We honestly don’t know everything that went on. There are reports that Rosen is in talks to provide testimony to Congress, but that should have been scheduled a long time ago.
I continue to feel that congressional Democrats, as well as Attorney General Merrick Garland, are overmatched by Trump administration abuses of power. I get it; so am I. But I’m just one journalist. Looking for an angle on this latest wave of outrageous Trump revelations, I found myself slightly obsessed with Meadows’s role in denying struggling women, veterans, and BIPOC restaurateurs Covid relief in order to advance white businesses. I almost couldn’t believe it was true; many of the stories about the holdup of relief funds don’t mention him. Then I went down the rabbit hole.
Meadows and Miller’s group represents the owners of the Dallas–Fort Worth area franchise of The Lost Cajun, a restaurant chain run by a white couple (the once wildly expanding chain declared bankruptcy in April). The SBA regulations governing the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund didn’t exclude white-owned restaurants, of course, but created a 21-day window where restaurants owned by women, veterans, and people of color got priority. Janice and Jason Smith enlisted Miller and Meadows to argue that such prioritization was “unconstitutional,” and a judge blocked the disbursement of funds to the “socially and economically disadvantaged” businesses—while allowing funds to other business owners to be released.
The SBA had already released almost all of its funding, mainly to priority businesses, but also to some white-owned restaurants. The 3,000 “disadvantaged” restaurateurs now denied funding had already been approved, but they won’t get help; the remaining $1.2 billion can only be granted to “non-priority” businesses, which mainly means white ones.
One Black restaurant owner told WNYC/Gothamist she cried when she got the news that her already approved loan had been blocked and said Meadows, Miller, and their clients are “using racism to fight racism.” Miller countered: “The Biden Administration has inflicted needless pain and suffering on countless Americans through its deplorable and unconstitutional scheme that sent restaurant owners—on the basis of their race—to the back of the line for a limited pool of funds.”
Need I point out that not one Republican voted for the American Rescue Plan, which established the restaurant relief fund? Nah, you know that. Conservative Representative Michael Burgess represents the aggrieved complainants in Keller, Tex. Of course he voted against the bill. But he’s got a handy guide for “district biz”—district businesses—needing the relief it provides. Just like all the hippest hypocrites do.
At any rate, this is not the last blow Meadows, Miller, Whitaker, Barr, and their many cronies will strike against racial, economic, or gender fairness, or democracy. Democrats need to step up their oversight hearings and make sure all of these miscreants have a lot of time for testimony on their schedule, to compete with their priority: advancing white rights. Garland might need to consider a special counsel to locate all the rot in his Justice Department. The Trump administration isn’t part of a lamentable but bygone past. It represents a blueprint for the GOP’s future, and it will be advanced by every kind of racist interregnum scam until its henchmen return to power again. And real people will be hurt.