Mark Meadows

Mark Randall Meadows (born July 28, 1959) is an American politician who served as the 29th White House chief of staff from 2020 to 2021. He served as the U.S. representative for North Carolina's 11th congressional district from 2013 to 2020. A member of the Republican Party, Meadows chaired the House Freedom Caucus from 2017 to 2019. He was considered one of President Donald Trump's closest allies in Congress before his appointment as chief of staff.[1]

Mark Meadows
Mark Meadows, Official Portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
29th White House Chief of Staff
In office
March 31, 2020 – January 20, 2021
PresidentDonald Trump
DeputyEmma Doyle
Tony Ornato
Chris Liddell
Dan Scavino
Preceded byMick Mulvaney (acting)
Succeeded byRon Klain
Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee
In office
March 12, 2020 – March 30, 2020
Preceded byJim Jordan
Succeeded byJim Jordan
Chair of the House Freedom Caucus
In office
January 3, 2017 – October 1, 2019
Preceded byJim Jordan
Succeeded byAndy Biggs
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 11th district
In office
January 3, 2013 – March 30, 2020
Preceded byHeath Shuler
Succeeded byMadison Cawthorn
Personal details
Born
Mark Randall Meadows

(1959-07-28) July 28, 1959 (age 61)
Verdun, France
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)
Debbie Meadows
(m. 1979)
Children2
EducationUniversity of South Florida (AA)

A Tea Party Republican, Meadows was a founding member of the Freedom Caucus. During his time in Congress, he was one of the most conservative Republican lawmakers and played an important part of the United States federal government shutdown of 2013. He also sought to remove John Boehner as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

Meadows resigned from Congress on March 31, 2020, to become White House chief of staff. As chief of staff, he played an influential role in the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He questioned the efficacy of masks, contrary to public health expertise;[2] pressured the Food and Drug Administration to adopt less strict guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine trials;[2] and admonished the White House's own infectious disease experts for not "staying on message" with Trump's rhetoric.[3] In October 2020, Meadows said it was futile to try "to control the pandemic", emphasizing instead a plan to contain it with vaccines and therapeutics. As the virus spread among White House staff in the fall of 2020, he sought to conceal the cases, including his own.[4][5]

Early life and educationEdit

Meadows was born at a United States Army hospital in Verdun, France, where his father was serving in the Army and his mother worked as a civilian nurse. His mother was from Sevierville, Tennessee, and his father from Pineville, Arkansas.[citation needed]

Meadows grew up in Brandon, Florida, and described his upbringing as "poor".[6] He has said he was a "fat nerd" who went on a diet after a classmate rejected him for a date.[6] Meadows attended Florida State University for one year in 1977–78.[6] Meadows falsely claimed to hold a Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Florida for many years in his official biography maintained by the Office of the Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives. In actuality, he graduated from the University of South Florida with an Associate of Arts.[6]

Early careerEdit

In 1987, Meadows started "Aunt D's", a small restaurant in Highlands, North Carolina. He later sold it and used the proceeds to start a real estate development company in the Tampa, Florida, area.[7]

While living in Highlands, Meadows served as chairman of the Republican Party in Macon County, and was a delegate to several state and national Republican conventions.[8] Meadows was on North Carolina's Board for Economic Development in Western North Carolina.[9]

In 2011, he moved to Glenville, North Carolina. In 2016, he sold his house and moved into an apartment in Biltmore Park, a mixed-use community in Asheville, North Carolina, while deciding where to buy next in either Henderson or Buncombe counties.[10] He is the owner of Highlands Properties, which specializes in construction and land development.[11] In 2014, Meadows sold 134 acres (54 hectares) of land in Dinosaur, Colorado, to a young earth creationist group. He appeared in the film Raising the Allosaur: The True Story of a Rare Dinosaur and the Home Schoolers Who Found It.[12]

U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit

TenureEdit

Meadows signed the Contract from America, a set of ten policies assembled by the Tea Party movement.[13][14] Meadows was a founding member of the Freedom Caucus.[15]

Meadows voted against disaster relief spending for October 2012's Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Northeastern United States and caused severe damage.[16] He was one of several Republicans who claimed the funding bill contained pork-barrel spending that had nothing to do with hurricane relief, a claim the bill's supporters denied.[16][17] Meadows's opposition to Sandy relief was recalled in 2017 news accounts after he and many Republicans who had opposed it voted in favor of disaster aid following Hurricane Harvey, which caused massive damage in Louisiana and Texas that August.[16][17] Critics alleged that Republicans were hypocritically opposing spending in states with Democratic majorities while supporting it in Republican states.[18] Republicans, including Meadows, claimed the situations were different because the Harvey spending bill contained no "pork".[18] A Congressional Research Service review determined that the Sandy spending bill's funds were almost all devoted to recovery from Sandy.[19]

Meadows served as chair of the Subcommittee on Government Operations up until June 20, 2015, when fellow Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz removed him from the position. A member of the House Republican leadership, Chaffetz removed Meadows due to Meadows's vote against a procedural motion the Republican leadership presented.[20] Meadows was one of 34 Republicans who voted against the motion, which allowed for consideration of President Barack Obama's request for fast-track authority on trade agreements. Speaker John Boehner supported the measure, but many Republicans felt it gave too much power to Democrats and Obama specifically.[21] Chaffetz's action was seen as controversial, with many prominent Republican politicians, including Texas senator Ted Cruz, speaking out against the punishment.

Meadows served as ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, until he assumed the office of White House Chief of Staff.[22]

2013 federal government shutdownEdit

Meadows has been described as playing an important part of the 2013 United States federal government shutdown.[23][24][25] On August 21, 2013, he wrote an open letter to Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor encouraging them to "affirmatively de-fund the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare in any relevant appropriations bills brought to the House floor in the 113th Congress, including any continuing appropriations bill."[26][27] The document was signed by 79 of Meadows's colleagues in the House.[23][27] Heritage Action (which opened operations in North Carolina in January 2011[28]), ran critical Internet advertisements in the districts of 100 Republican lawmakers who failed to sign the letter.[29] The letter has been described as controversial within the Republican Party.[23][30]

The New York Daily News said Meadows put the federal government on the road to shutdown, saying calls to defund Obamacare through spending bills languished until Meadows wrote his letter.[25] Meadows downplayed his influence, saying "I'm one of 435 members and a very small part of this."[25] CNN described Meadows as the "architect of the brink" for his letter suggesting that Obamacare be defunded in any continuing appropriations bill.[23] Meadows said that sensationalized his role.[24]

John Ostendorff of the Asheville Citizen-Times wrote that Meadows "said it's best to close the government in the short term to win a delay on 'Obamacare', despite the potential negative impact on the economy."[24] Ostendorff wrote that Meadows said he was doing what Tea Party members in Western North Carolina wanted him to do.[24] Meadows said his constituents wanted him to fight against Obamacare "regardless of consequences."[23] Jane Bilello, head of the Asheville Tea Party, said Meadows "truly represents us" on the issue of Obamacare.[23] Meadows reportedly holds conference calls with members of the Asheville Tea Party, telling them what's going on in Congress and about challenges he faces promoting their agenda.[23]

In public comments, Meadows said he was working on a compromise that involved passing appropriations bills that would fund only parts of the government, such as a bill to fund the National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, National Gallery of Art, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and a bill to fund the National Institutes of Health. But partial or "mini" funding bills were rejected by the Democratic majority in the United States Senate.[24]

Resolution to remove Speaker BoehnerEdit

On July 28, 2015, Meadows filed a resolution to vote on removing John Boehner as speaker of the House.[31] If the resolution passed, the House would then vote to elect a new speaker.[31] Because he filed it as a nonprivileged resolution, it was sent to the House Committee on Rules for a vote first, rather than the House floor.[31] The Committee on Rules was considered to have many members who were loyal to Boehner, so the resolution was seen as unlikely to move forward.[31]

Meadows said he filed the resolution because Boehner had "endeavored to consolidate power, bypassing the majority" of Congress; "through inaction, caused the power of Congress to atrophy," "uses the power of the office to punish Members who vote according to their conscience"; "has intentionally provided for voice votes on consequential and controversial legislation to be taken without notice and with few Members present"; "uses the legislative calendar to create crises for the American People"; allowed members less than three days to review legislation before voting; and limited meaningful debate on the House floor.[32] The resolution received support from Congressman Walter B. Jones Jr.[33]

Boehner responded, "Listen, you have a member here and a member there who are off the reservation. No big deal ... Listen, this is one member. All right. I've got broad support amongst my colleagues. And frankly, it isn't even deserving of a vote."[34] On September 25, 2015, Boehner announced his intention to resign as speaker.[35] He officially resigned on October 31, 2015.[36]

ControversiesEdit

A group of employees reported to Meadows's deputy chief of staff in October 2014 that they were uncomfortable with Meadows's then chief of staff, Kenny West, calling his behavior "inappropriate towards them". Meadows asked Representative Trey Gowdy's chief of staff to interview the employees, and Meadows eventually limited or prohibited West's presence in Meadows's offices.[37]

Although West resigned after the employees accused him of inappropriate behavior, he remained on the House payroll in violation of House rules, according to an independent House Ethics Committee investigation. Meadows paid West $58,125 from April 2015 to August 2015 even though he was no longer working in Meadows's office. There is "substantial reason to believe that Representative Meadows retained an employee who did not perform duties commensurate with the compensation the employee received and certified that the compensation met applicable House standards, in violation of House rules and standards of conduct," the Office of Congressional Ethics report said.

Prior to December 2018, Meadows claimed to have received a Bachelor of Arts degree.[6] When questions about his credentials arose during media speculation that he was under consideration to serve as White House chief of staff, Meadows amended his official House biography and other sources to indicate that his degree was an associate, not a bachelor's.[6]

In November 2018, the House Ethics Committee fined Meadows over $40,000 after concluding he "did not do enough to address" sexual harassment allegations against West. The committee concluded Meadows took "immediate and appropriate steps" by separating West from female staffers and requesting an investigation, but noted that West retained his title and "apparent authority over staff" during this period. "Representative Meadows could have and should have done more to ensure that his congressional office was free from discrimination or the perception of discrimination," the committee wrote. The committee fined Meadows $40,625 "for Mr. West's salary that was not commensurate with his work." The Daily Beast previously reported that a former aide told the committee Meadows and other top staff members in his office were aware of West's behavior before it was publicly reported.[38]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

ElectionsEdit

2012

In late 2011 Meadows announced he was running for Congress in North Carolina's 11th congressional district, for the seat being vacated by Democratic incumbent Heath Shuler. The district had been significantly altered in redistricting. New lines were drawn straight through the middle of Warren Wilson College. Notably, it lost most of Asheville to the 10th district, while picking up some heavily Republican territory in the foothills. The old 11th had a slight Republican lean, but the new 11th was on paper the most Republican district in the state.[42] In 2011 the North Carolina state legislature redrew the congressional districts based on updated population information from the 2010 census.[43] As a result, the district is now 91.2% White, 3.0% Black, 1.4% Native American and 1.0% Asian.[43] The district was drawn in such a way that in some parts of Asheville, one side of the street shifted to the 10th while the other side of the street stayed in the 11th.[44]

Meadows won the July 2012 Republican primary runoff,[45] and in the November general election faced Democratic nominee Hayden Rogers, who had been Shuler's chief of staff. On August 28, Meadows spoke at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.[46] He won the general election with approximately 57% of the vote[47] and took office in January 2013.

2014

Meadows was reelected with 62.9% of the vote.

2016

Meadows appeared with candidate Donald Trump on the campaign trail in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in July 2016 just after the Republican National Convention, leading the crowd in a chant, "Lock her up", an anti-Hillary Clinton refrain.[48]

Meadows won re-election with 64.1% of the vote.

2018

Meadows won reelection to his seat in the November 2018 election, receiving 59% of the vote to his Democratic opponent Phillip Price's 38%.[49]

During the campaign Meadows supported President Trump's agenda, calling him a "conservative president" in 2017,[50] and suggesting that Republicans who didn't support Trump should be removed from office.[51] Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner attended a private fundraiser for Meadows.[52] In January 2018, Meadows traveled to Davos, Switzerland, with a congressional delegation for the World Economic Forum, along with a White House delegation including Trump and cabinet members including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.[53][54]

2020

On December 19, 2019, Meadows announced that he would not seek reelection in 2020.[55]

White House chief of staffEdit

 
Meadows with President Trump on 4 March 2020

In December 2018, Meadows was vocal about his desire to work in the White House as Chief of Staff upon the January 2019 departure of John F. Kelly.[56]

On March 6, 2020, Trump named Meadows the next White House chief of staff,[57] succeeding Acting Chief Mick Mulvaney.[58][59] Meadows resigned from the House on March 30, 2020,[60] and began his new role the next day.[61]

COVID-19 pandemicEdit

Meadows played an influential role in the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, often questioning the scientific consensus on the effectiveness of face masks in halting the virus's spread. Within the administration, Meadows advised Trump not to openly embrace mask-wearing, saying "The base will revolt."[62] He admonished Anthony Fauci, one of the administration's leading experts in guiding the response, for not "staying on message." He impressed upon Fauci, Deborah Birx and other government public health experts not to comment on restrictive measures for dealing with the virus.[3] While interacting with reporters, Meadows refused to wear a mask.[63]

In October 2020, when asked about the lack of face mask usage at Trump rallies, Meadows said it was futile to try "to control the pandemic" and that the focus would be on getting a vaccine.[64] Public health experts, including those in the White House, have pointed to face masks as one of the most basic precautions that have been proven to work to halt the spread of COVID-19.[65]

While chief of staff, Meadows pressured the Food and Drug Administration to adopt less strict guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine trials.[2] He criticized FDA commissioner Stephen M. Hahn as too heavily influenced by the FDA's scientist staff.[2] During coronavirus relief negotiations, Meadows argued against giving additional funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[66]

On November 6, 2020, it was reported that Meadows had tested positive for COVID-19; per the Trump administration, he tested positive on November 4.[67] Meadows did not issue a statement after he tested positive and did not make it widely known to administration staff.[68] A small group of people were informed and told to keep it quiet.[68] This caused consternation among other administration staff, as it hindered contact tracing efforts and endangered staff.[68]

2020 presidential electionEdit

After Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election and Trump refused to concede while making false claims of systemic and pervasive fraud, Meadows aided Trump in his efforts to overturn the election and to pressure election officials to look more closely into election fraud.[69] He urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the certification of Georgia's election results out of a "spirit of cooperation and compromise" with Trump. In a taped phone call during which Meadows was present, Trump attempted to pressure Raffensperger into recounting Georgia's votes, claiming he had won the state.[70][69]

Political positionsEdit

Abortion and family planningEdit

Meadows is pro-life and has called abortion a tragedy. He opposes federal funding for abortion and believes parents should be notified of underage abortion procedures. He also opposes requiring churches and other religious sites to provide birth control options.[71]

Birtherism and racismEdit

While running for office in June 2012, Meadows said, "2012 is the time we are going to send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is," implying that President Obama was not born in the United States. He made a similar comment later that month. When asked about his comment, Meadows said it was "a non-issue", "probably a poor choice of words on my part" and that he ultimately believed that Obama was an American citizen.[72]

BudgetEdit

Meadows is part of a group that has advocated for a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. He opposed the recent federal stimulus spending and has expressed a desire for the federal spending growth rate to be capped at the inflation rate. He supports a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget has been balanced. Meadows opposes any cuts to military spending levels.[71]

Civil rightsEdit

In February 2013 Meadows voted against renewing the Violence Against Women Act. Meadows has said he casts his votes based not on his personal feelings but on what the majority of his constituents in "God's Country" tell him to do.[73]

COVID-19Edit

As chief of staff, Meadows played an influential role in the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He questioned the efficacy of masks, contrary to public health expertise;[2] pressured the Food and Drug Administration to adopt less strict guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine trials;[2] and admonished the White House's own infectious disease experts for not "staying on message" with Trump's rhetoric.[3] In October 2020, Meadows said it was futile to try "to control the pandemic", emphasizing instead a plan to contain it with vaccines and therapeutics. On November 4, 2020, Meadows tested positive for COVID-19, but only disclosed it to a small group of people who were asked to keep it quiet, thus preventing others who had interacted with Meadows to take proper precautions and hindering contact tracing.[74]

Environment and energyEdit

In December 2016 Meadows gave Trump a wish list of regulations to be repealed. It included a demand to get rid of federal funding to study climate change. He also requested Trump repeal several environmental regulations, including the Renewable Fuel Standard, end the prohibition of drilling oil on federal lands, and pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement.[75]

Meadows has said that cap-and-trade emission policies are ineffective and have minimal impact on the global environment. He has proposed that the United States tap into oil and gas reserves to keep energy prices low and develop energy independence. He supports tapping into off-shore oil and gas supplies.[71]

LGBT rightsEdit

Meadows opposes same-sex marriage. In March 2013, he said that if the Supreme Court allowed gay marriage, it would cause a constitutional crisis if the federal government decided to dismiss state decisions and thus infringe on state's rights.[76]

Gun controlEdit

Meadows opposes any restrictions on gun purchases and opposes a national gun registry that would list detailed information about firearm ownership.[71]

HealthcareEdit

Meadows opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and has stated that it should be replaced by private enterprise.[71]

Less than a year after taking office, Meadows wrote the letter that initially urged House Speaker John Boehner to shut down the government unless the ACA was defunded. Some constituents have criticized him as responsible for the 2013 government shutdown; The Washington Post called him its "chief architect". His district lost up to $1 million per day during the shutdown because the national parks were closed.[77]

In January 2017, Meadows voted for a budget resolution that initiated the process of repealing Obamacare.[78] On May 4, 2017, Meadows voted for the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would partially repeal and replace Obamacare.[79]

After the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released numbers about the AHCA's effects on Americans on May 24, 2017, there were several reports that Meadows became emotional after reading about the AHCA's likely effects on those with preexisting conditions.[80] Others reported he cried only after bringing up his family members who had dealt with preexisting conditions, including his sister who had died of breast cancer, and his father who had died of lung cancer. Meadows said he wouldn't "make a political decision today that affects somebody's sister or father because I wouldn't do it to myself."[81] When asked about the CBO numbers, Meadows said the government should ensure people with preexisting conditions can afford health care, saying, "The president is committed to making sure preexisting conditions are covered in principle and in practice, which means that funding has to be there to make it work."[82]

Israeli–Palestinian conflictEdit

Meadows is a strong supporter of Israel.[83] He said that "the giving away of property, whether in the Sinai or Gaza, [did not bring] peace. In many ways, it has made (the situation) more difficult."[84] Meadows has opposed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.[85]

Net neutralityEdit

Meadows opposes regulations that require all internet providers provide internet at equal speeds to all parties. In 2016 he gave Trump a list of regulations to repeal that included net neutrality regulations by the Federal Communications Commission.[75]

Russia investigationEdit

Meadows, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been a harsh critic of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. During Trump's presidency, Meadows regularly conferred with Trump about Mueller's probe.[86][87] Meadows has been described as a "Trump ally".[88] In May 2018, Meadows called for a financial audit of the Mueller investigation.[89]

In July 2018, along with Jim Jordan, Meadows called on the Department of Justice to "review allegations that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to subpoena phone records and documents from a House Intelligence Committee staffer". An aide termed the deputy AG's threats "downright chilling". In their written request, they wrote that in his use of investigative powers, Rosenstein retaliated "against rank-and-file staff members", therefore abusing his authority.[90] Furthermore, during a Fox News interview by Laura Ingraham that same month, he "threatened to force a vote on the GOP resolution" that would impeach the deputy AG. Arguing he could force the resolution to the floor as a "privileged motion", he elaborated: "we hope it doesn't have to come to that". He filed articles of impeachment against Rosenstein on July 25, although the measure cannot be "brought straight to the House floor".[91] Meadows's Democratic opponent in the 2018 election, Phillip Price, condemned the impeachment resolution as an attempt to shut down the Justice Department's investigation of Russian meddling into the 2016 election through "obstruction of justice."[92]

Syria and YemenEdit

Meadows was among 60 Republicans to oppose condemning Trump's action of withdrawing forces from Syria.[93] Along with Matt Gaetz and a handful of Republicans, Meadows broke with his party and voted to end Saudi assistance to the War in Yemen.[94]

TaxesEdit

Meadows has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and he opposes a raise in all taxes, including the income tax. Meadows supports a flat-rate income tax for all earners and a repeal of the raise in the capital gains tax. He also supports the elimination of the estate tax.[71]

Trump–Ukraine scandalEdit

On December 8, 2019, Meadows claimed that Trump never asked a foreign leader to investigate a political rival,[95][96] despite a transcript of the July 25, 2019, phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky where Trump asks Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden[95] and in spite of Trump's October 3, 2019, public calling upon China to investigate Hunter Biden's business activities there while his father was vice president.[97][98] Meadows said he would be "OK" with a Democratic president doing what Trump did: “We have Democrat Senators who have done just that.”[99]

WagesEdit

Meadows presented a letter to Trump in 2016 that demanded the repeal of the federal requirement that public works projects pay laborers and mechanics the locally prevailing wages, which was initially made to protect traveling black workers in the South from being paid far less than local workers. The letter also demanded the repeal of the overtime rule from the Obama administration, which said people making less than $47,000 a year must be paid extra for overtime hours, compared to the previous requirement that those making over $23,000 a year could be denied overtime pay if the worker's duties could be considered "managerial". The letter also demanded the end of regulations requiring federal contractors to be paid for sick leave.[75]

NotesEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Heath Shuler
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 11th congressional district

2013–2020
Succeeded by
Madison Cawthorn
Preceded by
Jim Jordan
Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee
2020
Succeeded by
Jim Jordan
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jim Jordan
Chair of the Freedom Caucus
2017–2019
Succeeded by
Andy Biggs
Political offices
Preceded by
Mick Mulvaney
White House Chief of Staff
2020–2021
Succeeded by
Ron Klain