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Examining the impact from this week's revelations from the Capitol attack

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What do we learn from the text messages of former President Trump's onetime chief of staff? House investigators obtained the messages before Mark Meadows stopped cooperating. As we have reported, the messages from January 6 reveal that some of Trump's most prominent supporters desperately asked Mark Meadows to get Trump to stop the violence, the attack on the Capitol that day. The people texting included top personalities from the Fox (inaudible) channel and Trump's eldest son.

Jonah Goldberg is with us next. He is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch. Jonah, welcome back.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Always great to be here.

INSKEEP: What do you think the messages show about the people who wrote them?

GOLDBERG: I think what it shows - and this is going to strike some listeners as contrarianism - it shows that they're normal people in the sense that all normal people watching the events of January 6 understood a few basic truths - first of all, that this riot was outrageous, disgusting, illegal, grotesque and second, that Donald Trump had some culpability for it. He was the reason why those rioters were there. He was the person who could tell those rioters to stop rioting. Laura Ingraham recognized that. Sean Hannity recognized that. Donald Trump Jr. recognized that. And not only did they recognize it, they thought it would be good for the country, or at least good for their cause, if he stopped it, and he refused to do it. That, I think, is the overriding, you know, context of those messages.

And then going forward, the real - you know, the real outrage about it, to my mind, is that for the next 11 months, a lot of these people decided to go another way and say it was no big deal, that Donald Trump had nothing to do with it and that anybody who was making a big deal about people bludgeoning cops with flagpoles and trying to kidnap members of Congress, they're just hypocrites and idiots. And that's what Laura, who I've known for 30 years - that's what Sean Hannity, who I've known for at least 20 did over the next 11 months. And that's what much of Fox Primetime and much of just MAGA world in general did.

INSKEEP: Now, I want to ask a follow-up on that, Jonah, because I know that people like Laura Ingraham have defended themselves by saying, look, I criticize the January 6 violence. You point out that having said that for the record, they then go on to minimize it in many ways or endorse conspiracy theories. Without talking about my own TV viewing in any way at all, I have a lot of relatives who watch Fox. Do these messages show that these Fox News personalities have been lying to my family for months?

GOLDBERG: Yes. I mean, I could give you some caveats, but yes. I mean, this is the thing that has made me feel like I was in an "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers" movie for the last five years. The things that - the Republican Party and conservative media world is full of people who know the truth and say something else. And even though they - I'm sure - I know for a fact that Laura and Sean really liked Donald Trump and think he's good for America and all of this kind of stuff. But they also know - or at least this is my strong suspicion; I can't see into their hearts - they know what they knew on January 6, that this was Donald Trump - that Donald Trump was largely responsible for January 6, that Donald Trump had the ability to get these people to stop what they were doing and refused to do so for his own purposes, which was essentially to steal an election.

And they have been doing - they've been manning the brooms behind the Trumpian elephant for five years now, saying, don't believe your lying eyes, saying that the real problems are, you know, the enemy, the other tribe, and we have done nothing wrong. And certainly, Comrade Trump has done nothing wrong, for he shall deliver the greatest wheat harvest east of the Urals we have ever seen.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) OK. We'll remind people that you resigned from your post as a Fox commentator because you disagreed with their editorial direction. I've just got about 30 seconds left. I want to ask one thing. You've written recently that Trump's clout with GOP voters, while still significant, seems less formidable all the time. In just a sentence or two, what's the evidence for that?

GOLDBERG: If you look at various polls, the Iowa poll, which is sort of a gold standard poll, it says that something like 60% of Republicans are more aligned with the party than with Donald Trump. Only about 20-something percent are aligned with Trump. His endorsements are failing. And - that still gives him a lot of power in primaries, but he is not the formidable force he once was in GOP politics.

INSKEEP: Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief of the news website The Dispatch. Always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you, sir.

GOLDBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.