Shelby County Republicans — and former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff — gave a rallying cry to conservatives at an annual fundraising dinner Friday night, portraying the United States under President Joe Biden as a dark time.
About 700 attended The Republican Party of Shelby County’s Lincoln Day Gala, held at the Agricenter, with attendees including elected officials ranging from U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty, U.S. Rep. David Kustoff, U.S. Rep. Mark Green, numerous judges, several Republican county commissioners, Memphis City Councilman Frank Colvett to Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner (a Democrat whose reelection has been supported by the Republican party).
The keynote address was given by Mark Meadows, former congressman and chief of staff to Trump from 2020-21. Meadows has frequently appeared in the news in recent weeks as text messages have revealed the extent of the communication between Trump’s inner circle as they discussed fighting election results after Biden’s win in 2020. A recent court filing also alleged that Meadows was warned of possible violence on Jan. 6, 2021.
Meadows is currently resisting a subpoena to appear before the Jan. 6 committee, claiming executive privilege. In December, the U.S. House voted to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress for defying the subpoena.
Meadows did not address the controversy in his address, instead focusing on praising Trump and speaking about how he sees “people that continue to show up in record numbers.”
“I’m here to tell you that if you’re willing to engage in politics, there are so many elected officials and public servants here that if you’re willing to engage and make a difference, it will not only affect Shelby County,” Meadows said. “But it’s all about keeping your promises.”
He described Trump as a president who kept his promises, with a white board in the White House listing campaign promises, ready to be checked off one by one.
He also told the story of his first meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, saying he started the meeting by explaining to Trump what the president needed to do in office, but found himself frequently sidetracked by a large red button in a box.
“Finally he (Trump) said, ‘It makes you nervous, doesn’t it?’” Meadows described.
Trump asked if he wanted to push the red button, Meadows said, so he did, half expecting a missile to fire. A door opened and someone set a Diet Coke in front of the president.
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“You want to see it again?” Meadows recalled the president asking. “He has such a great sense of humor,” Meadows said.
The annual fundraiser “to really raise momentum, raise money, get people excited about the upcoming elections,” said Cary Vaughn, chairman of The Republican Party of Shelby County.
Money raised will go toward a ballot for this summer to tell people how to vote and where to vote and secondly to raise money for headquarters and resources, Vaughn said.
Other speakers at the gala focused on issues of the economy, immigration and critical race theory.
Kustoff, the Republican who represents Tennessee’s eighth district in Congress, compared the present to 1979, a difficult time economically and geopolitically.
“Do you remember what you paid for your groceries in your grocery store 18 months ago when Trump was president?” Kustoff asked. “The decisions Biden has made while president have been detrimental for this country.”
However, Kustoff said 2022 could also be like 2010, when Republicans took the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Mark Luttrell was elected mayor of Shelby County, and Republican Bill Oldham was elected Shelby County Sheriff.
Green, the Republican who represents Tennessee’s seventh district in Congress, said Republicans plan to take back the U.S. House in November.
“We are fighting Marxist Communists who have taken over the Democratic Party. Are you with me now?” Green said. “Our country is under great threat and it may seem like it’s a challenge that we can’t overcome, but I want to tell you that this nation will overcome the challenges that we’re facing from the hard liberal progressive left.”
Blackburn, the Republican who serves as Tennessee’s senior U.S. senator, attacked Biden’s administration, saying it is trying to take away “our guns” and the “First Amendment,” trying to “invade our privacy” and “leaving our southern border wide open.”
“Russia’s on the move. China’s on the move. All of this is because Joe Biden and Kamala Harris don’t know what they’re doing to run the country,” Blackburn said.
Trump had a “great team around him” during the pandemic, including Meadows, Blackburn said, calling Trump “the best president this United States has ever had.”
Katherine Burgess covers county government and religion. She can be reached at email@example.com, 901-529-2799 or followed on Twitter @kathsburgess.
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