House Jan. 6 probe sheds light on Trump aide Mark Meadows’ records before contempt vote
Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff, listens to a question from a member of the media outside of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.
Chris Kleponis | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The lawmakers investigating the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol are set Monday to vote to recommend the House hold former President Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress.
The vote, scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, will make Meadows the third of Trump’s associates to face the threat of possible criminal charges stemming from the probe of the deadly attack, in which hundreds of Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol and forced Congress to flee their chambers for safety.
Trump, who was impeached in the House for inciting an insurrection but acquitted by Republicans in the Senate, since leaving office has continued to spread the false claims of a “rigged” 2020 election that spurred many of his followers to violently break into the building.
The bipartisan, nine-member panel is set to vote on a 51-page report that lays out the case for the House to hold Meadows in contempt for defying a subpoena to hand over a slew of records and sit for a deposition. The House could then vote to send a contempt resolution to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution.
The report, released on the eve of the panel’s vote, sheds new light on the thousands of documents that Meadows had provided to investigators before he reversed course and filed a lawsuit to invalidate two of their subpoenas.
The documents, which are described but not shared in full, show Meadows discussing the Jan. 6 attack and the efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, according to the committee’s report.
Meadows saying in an email that the National Guard would be present on Jan. 6 to “protect pro Trump people” and that more members would be available on standby;Meadows receiving messages about alleged plans for Republican state legislators to send purported “alternate slates” of electors to Congress. “I love it,” Meadows responded to one such message. “Have a team on it,” he replied to another;Meadows sending claims about election fraud to the acting leadership of the Department of Justice;Meadows texting advice to an organizer of the Jan. 6 rally outside the White House, after that organizer told him, “[t]hings have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction. Please.”
Trump has claimed that many of the materials sought by the House investigators should be withheld on the basis of executive privilege, the doctrine that allows for some White House communications to kept private.
The former president has also cited claims of privilege as the basis for directing multiple former aides, including Meadows, not to comply with the committee’s subpoenas.
Biden, however, waived executive privilege over many of the White House records, prompting Trump to file a civil lawsuit to stop the committee from receiving them from the National Archives.
Both a federal district court judge and a panel of three appeals court judges have rejected Trump’s argument that, in the dispute over executive privilege, his claims should override the incumbent president’s judgment. Trump is expected to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the appellate court’s ruling.
On Monday morning, a lawyer for Meadows sent select committee chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., a letter arguing that a contempt referral in this case “would be contrary to law, manifestly unjust, unwise, and unfair.” The letter contends that the invocation of privilege for Meadows was made in “good faith,” and that referring a former senior presidential aide for contempt would “do great damage to the institution of the Presidency,” among other arguments.
(L-R) Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chair of the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, speaks as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), vice-chair of the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) listen during a committee meeting on Capitol Hill on December 1, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
The House had already voted to hold former White House senior advisor Steve Bannon in contempt for his own noncompliance with a subpoena issued by the Jan. 6 panel. A federal grand jury subsequently charged Bannon with two counts of contempt of Congress.
Bannon has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000 for each count. A federal judge set a tentative July 18 start date for Bannon’s trial.
Last week, the select committee voted to advance contempt proceedings for ex-Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, though the investigators also gave him a time extension to comply with the probe.
Meadows’ lawsuit asks the court to invalidate subpoenas that the panel had issued to him and Verizon, his former personal cell phone carrier, calling them “overly broad and unduly burdensome.”
His argument rests in large part on Trump’s instruction for him not to comply with the subpoena, citing claims of executive privilege. Meadows “has been put in the untenable position of choosing between conflicting privilege claims,” the lawsuit argues.
It was filed a day before Trump lost his appeal to stop the committee from obtaining the disputed White House records.
The select committee has rejected Meadows’ argument. “To be clear, Mr. Meadows’s failure to comply, and this contempt recommendation, are not based on good-faith disagreements over privilege assertions,” the contempt report says.
“Rather, Mr. Meadows has failed to comply and warrants contempt findings because he has wholly refused to appear to provide any testimony and refused to answer questions regarding even clearly non-privileged information — information that he himself has identified as non-privileged through his own document production.”
The report says that Trump himself has not relayed any privilege claims to them regarding Meadows’ participation in their probe. They note that Biden, the incumbent president, is not invoking privilege to prevent Meadows from complying.
After months of negotiations, an agreement had been struck for Meadows to share certain records and appear for a deposition with the Jan. 6 probe. He has handed over approximately 9,000 pages of records with no claims of privilege attached, according to committee member Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
But the day before his deposition, Meadows told the committee he would not attend “even to answer questions about the documents that he agrees are relevant and non-privileged that he had just produced,” the report says.
That reversal came on the day of the release of Meadows’ book, which documents many of his experiences in Trump’s White House, including his interactions with Trump himself.
That book revealed that Trump in 2020 had tested positive for the coronavirus three days before his September debate with Biden. The White House did not disclose that positive test at the time, but rather only shared a subsequent pre-debate test result that came back negative.
Trump has denied having Covid prior to or during the debate. He was hospitalized with the virus a few days after the debate.