Meadows comes under growing Jan. 6 panel spotlight
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is increasingly targeting — and losing patience with — Mark Meadows, Donald Trump’s powerful chief of staff who appeared to be deeply involved with the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
This week the committee released 16 new subpoenas over two days, encircling Meadows by demanding depositions from a number of those he worked closest with at the White House.
It also presented him with an ultimatum after Meadows had been said to be “engaging” with the committee about a deposition originally scheduled for Oct. 15: show up Friday or risk being held in contempt.
“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,” the committee’s leader said after he failed to show for a 10 a.m. deposition.
The tension with Meadows is coming to a head as the committee seems determined to trace his involvement in Trump’s election efforts at the Department of Justice; in Georgia where Trump pressured the secretary of state there to “find” 11,780 more votes; and in the planning of rallies just before Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.
Among those subpoenaed this week were Christopher Liddell, a White House deputy chief of staff under Meadows; and Ben Williamson, a loyal Meadows ally who followed him from the House to the White House.
Letters sent to both aides ask for information on “Mr. Meadows’ efforts to communicate with others relevant to the select committee’s investigation, including officials in Georgia, about allegations of fraud that had already been dismissed by state and federal courts.”
They also ask about his communications with “organizers of the Jan. 6 events … high-level officials at the Department of Justice about federal investigations into purported voter fraud, and U.S. government officials during the attack at the Capitol.”
They follow more than a dozen subpoenas sent to those who organized rallies on Jan. 6, many of which ask about any coordination with Meadows.
Meadows, a former North Carolina congressman and chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus (HFC), could also be a link to a number of other lawmakers in the caucus who may also be central to the committee’s investigation.
That includes the lawmakers who have denied Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander’s claim they helped conceive of the strategy of putting “maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting.” Those lawmakers include Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.).
The committee is also believed to be interested in the phone records of Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who are also in the House Freedom Caucus.
The committee is also interested in what Meadows may have done to push Trump to call off his supporters after they forced their way into the building.
The subpoenas released this week reference reporting from ProPublica that details a call from then White House Communication Director Alyssa Farah asking Meadows to convince Trump to release a statement condemning the violence. Farah previously worked for Meadows in the House. Farah has also appeared as an occasional host on Hill.TV’s “Rising.”
The Washington Post reported Meadows also sought the help of Ivanka Trump to convince her father to release such a statement.
“I need you to come back down here. We’ve got to get this under control,” Meadows reportedly told her.
Meadows and other aides were directed by Trump in September to refuse to cooperate with the committee, citing executive privilege arguments.
Those executive privilege arguments have since been echoed by Meadow’s attorney, who said “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.”
But it’s not clear that other aides will buck the committee as Meadows has.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a special assistant, has been asked to testify about her work arranging a trip for Meadows to travel to Georgia to attend an election audit.
“On Dec. 30 2020, following Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’s trip to Georgia to attend the election audit, you reportedly reached out directly via email and phone to Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs. In your email you said ‘I just spoke with Chief Meadows regarding his visit with you in Cobb County last week. When you have a moment could you please give me a call,’” her subpoena states.
Meadows was also on Trump’s Jan. 2 call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), when the then-president said “I just want to find 11,780 votes” so that he could overtake President Biden in the state.
Meadows was also widely implicated in Trump’s pressure campaign at the Department of Justice in a Senate Judiciary Committee report that detailed multiple contacts with top officials there. The committee said that violated longstanding rules designed to limit interference with the department’s work.
On Dec. 29, Meadows forwarded a letter in Italian detailing a conspiracy theory about how an Italian defense contractor had attempted to rig the election.
On Dec. 30, he forwarded an email from a lawyer advising the Trump campaign in Georgia who allegedly had found some 1,800 exhibits of purported voter fraud.
“Can you have your team look into these allegations of wrongdoing. Only the alleged fraudulent activity. Thanks Mark,” Meadows wrote to then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.
On. Jan. 1, he again pressed Rosen on Georgia.
“There have been allegations of signature match anomalies in Fulton County, Ga. Can you get Jeff Clark to engage on this issue immediately to determine if there is any truth to this allegation,” he wrote.
Trump later mulled installing Clark as acting attorney general amid frustration that Department of Justice officials weren’t acting on his claims. The department officials threatened to resign at a meeting Meadows arranged.
In a Friday statement, the committee said Meadows’s refusal to appear could result in them releasing his full subpoena to the public, a move that “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.”
Their statement also notes that Meadows has refused to answer whether he used a private cell phone on Jan. 6 and how they might locate his text messages.
The committee acted similarly when referring one-time White House strategist Steve Bannon for criminal prosecution, revealing their interest in whether he coordinated with extremist groups ahead of Jan. 6 and Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), another key figure in Trump’s endeavors at the Department of Justice, in the waning days of his presidency.
The department sought criminal charges against Bannon Friday, scoring an indictment from a federal grand jury.
The move only increases the odds that Meadows could meet the same fate.
“Steve Bannon’s indictment should send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can ignore the Select Committee or try to stonewall our investigation: no one is above the law. We will not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to get the information we need,” Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in a Friday statement.
Scott Wong contributed.