Judge asks DOJ to explain whether Meadows is immune from House Jan. 6 subpoena
A federal judge on Friday asked the Justice Department to explain its view on whether former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is immune from a congressional subpoena issued by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
The inquiry from U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols comes a little over three weeks after the department said it would not prosecute Meadows for contempt of Congress despite the House referring him for criminal charges for defying the select committee’s subpoena.
Nichols is presiding over a civil suit Meadows filed against the select committee late last year challenging its subpoena. His brief order issued on Thursday appears to give the department the option of declining to weigh in on the matter.
The judge invited the Justice Department to address “its view as to whether Plaintiff is entitled to absolute or qualified testimonial immunity from the subpoena at issue in this case.”
If the department chooses to weigh in, it will provide the first public explanation of why it chose to spare Meadows from prosecution, while filing criminal contempt charges against former White House trade advisor Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon, who had once served as a White House strategist to former President Trump. The Justice Department also declined to charge Trump’s social media guru Dan Scavino for defying a select committee subpoena.
In his legal case against the committee, Meadows has cited a department advisory legal memoranda dating back to the 1980’s that have consistently held that senior White House officials enjoy absolute immunity from congressional subpoenas.
With the select committee in the midst of its series of public hearings and appearing to wrap up its investigation, it’s unclear whether lawmakers will be able to secure anything of value from Meadows at this point.
But the Justice Department’s refusal to charge Meadows has added to the tension between the two branches’ respective Jan. 6 investigations. Earlier this month, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the chairman and vice chairwoman of the select committee, blasted the department for its decision.
“While today’s indictment of Peter Navarro was the correct decision by the Justice Department, we find the decision to reward Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino for their continued attack on the rule of law puzzling,” Thompson and Cheney said in a joint statement on June 3. “Mr. Meadows and Mr. Scavino unquestionably have relevant knowledge about President Trump’s role in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the events of January 6th. We hope the Department provides greater clarity on this matter.”
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