Meadows defies Jan. 6 committee, risking contempt charges
Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows has failed to show up for a Friday deposition with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, according to multiple reports, despite a threat from the panel it would seek to hold him in contempt for any defiance.
Meadows was not seen entering the Capitol and his attorneys had indicated he would not appear. The committee did not immediately respond to request for comment from The Hill.
The move tees the committee up to pursue yet another full House vote to censure a witness for failing to appear before the panel’s investigators, kicking to the Department of Justice the decision of whether to pursue criminal charges.
“Mr. Meadows’s actions today — choosing to defy the law — will force the Select Committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena. If his defiance persists and that process moves ahead, the record will reveal the wide range of matters the Select Committee wished to discuss with Mr. Meadows until his decision to hide behind the former President’s spurious claims of privilege,” Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in a joint statement.
“Many of those matters are not even conceivably subject to any privilege claim, even if there were one.”
The threat from the committee comes as it has been engaging with Meadows since September about a deposition originally scheduled for Oct. 15.
But when the White House on Thursday cleared the National Archives to release Meadows’s documents to the committee, the panel indicated its patience was up, sending a letter demanding he appear at 10 a.m. Friday.
Meadows’s attorney George Terwilliger stressed that his client is loath to talk to the committee without a court settling the matter.
“Our correspondence over the last few weeks shows a sharp legal dispute with the committee. The issues concern whether Mr. Meadows can be compelled to testify and whether, even if he could, that he could be forced to answer questions that involve privileged communications. Legal disputes are appropriately resolved by courts. It would be irresponsible for Mr. Meadows to prematurely resolve that dispute by voluntarily waiving privileges that are at the heart of those legal issues,” Terwilliger said in a Friday morning statement.
“No matter how important the subject matter of the committee’s work, decades of litigation over Executive Privilege shows how critically important it is for a president to have access to advice and counsel without fear that political opponents in Congress will later be able to pull away the shield of confidentiality that protects candor in those communications.”
If the committee seeks to refer Meadows to the Department of Justice, it will release the full subpoena it sent him, including a list of the documents he was asked to turn over and other lines of inquiry not yet known. The statement from the committee noted that Meadows has thus far refused to answer whether he used a private cell phone on Jan. 6 or how investigators might review his text message from that day.
Former President Trump had previously directed several of his former aides not to cooperate with the committee, arguing he would seek to block its work by claiming executive privilege.
But the committee has argued that only sitting presidents are able to make such claims, and President Biden had already agreed to release most of Trump’s records, citing the extraordinary circumstances.
Courts could take months to resolve the matter. The committee scored an initial victory earlier this week when a federal judge ruled Trump could not seek to block release of his records, noting that “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.”
But an appeals court granted a Trump motion to block their scheduled release today while the matter proceeds in court.
Meadows’s defiance brings to three the number of those subpoenaed who have defied the committee.
The House in October voted to censure onetime White House strategist Stephen Bannon after he failed to appear for his slated deposition. The Justice Department has not yet acted on the referral.
Jeffrey Clark, a former mid-level Justice Department attorney at the center of Trump’s pressure campaign at the Justice Department, only briefly met with the committee’s investigators last week. Trump weighed installing Clark as acting attorney general as he worked to pressure Justice Department leadership to involve the department in Trump’s election battles.
During the meeting Clark and his attorney suggested that he also should be covered by executive privilege, despite any such claim from Trump directly. Clark then failed to return to the committee later that afternoon.
“I have considered Mr. Clark’s claim of privilege and rejected it,” Thompson said last week.
“He has a very short time to reconsider and cooperate fully. We need the information that he is withholding and we are willing to take strong measures to hold him accountable to meet his obligation.”
— Updated at 5:08 p.m.
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