Friday, January 21

Capitol Strike Panel Says “There is No Choice” But to File Contempt Charges Against Mark Meadows | Attack on the US Capitol

Leaders of the House committee investigating the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol have said they “have no choice” but to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress after his attorney said on Tuesday your client will stop cooperating with the panel.

The committee’s Democratic chair, Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson, sent a letter to Meadows’s attorney, George Terwilliger, outlining the panel’s plans.

“The select committee has no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the agency Mr. Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution,” Thompson said.

The news comes a day after Meadows indicated it would no longer cooperate with investigators, claiming the committee does not honor former President Donald Trump’s claims of executive privilege over certain records.

In an abrupt change, Meadows attorney George Terwilliger said in a letter that a deposition would be “untenable” because the Jan. 6 panel “has no intention of honoring the boundaries” regarding questions that Trump has claimed are prohibited.

Terwilliger also said he learned over the weekend that the committee had issued a subpoena to a third-party communications provider that he said would include “intensely personal” information.

“As a result of careful and deliberate consideration of these factors, we must now decline the opportunity to voluntarily appear for a deposition,” Terwilliger wrote in the letter.

Meadows’ decision not to cooperate is a blow to the committee, as lawmakers hoped to interview Trump’s top aide in the White House about Trump’s actions during and before the violent attack by his supporters. They also hoped to use Meadows as an example for other witnesses who might be considering not cooperating, as Trump has presented legal challenges to block the panel’s work.

The committee’s lawmakers have criticized Meadows’ reluctance to testify while also publishing a book this week detailing his work within the White House. Thompson and Liz Cheney, the committee’s Republican vice chair, said they also have questions about the documents Meadows has already provided to the panel.

“Even as we litigate privilege issues, the select committee has numerous questions for Mr. Meadows about the records he has turned over to the committee without claiming privilege, including real-time communications with many individuals as the events of the 6th unfolded. from January”. they said in a statement released yesterday.

Thompson and Cheney said the panel also wants to speak to Meadows about “voluminous official records stored on his personal phone and email accounts” that the National Archives could release to the committee in the coming weeks. Trump has filed a lawsuit to stop the release of those records, and the case is currently pending in the US court of appeals.

The two committee leaders did not comment on Terwilliger’s claim about subpoenas to third-party communications providers. In August, the committee issued a widespread demand that telecommunications and social media companies preserve the personal communications of hundreds of people who may have been connected to the attack, but did not ask the companies to hand over the records at the time.

Terwilliger said in a statement last week that it was continuing to work with the committee and its staff on a possible accommodation that would not require Meadows to give up executive privileges claimed by Trump or “resign from the long-standing position that senior advisers to the White House can’t. ” be obliged to declare ”before Congress.

“We appreciate the opening of the select committee to receive voluntary responses on non-privileged issues,” he said then.

Thompson said at the time that the panel would “continue to assess his degree of compliance” and take action against Meadows or any other non-compliant witnesses, including voting to recommend contempt charges. The House has already voted to disparage Trump’s longtime ally Steve Bannon after he defied a subpoena, and the Justice Department indicted Bannon on two counts.

In discontinuing cooperation, Terwilliger cited comments from Thompson who said he unfairly slandered witnesses invoking his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. Another witness, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, has said he will invoke those Fifth Amendment rights, prompting questions from the committee about whether he would directly acknowledge that his answers could incriminate him.

Thompson said last week that Clark’s attorney had offered “no specific basis” for Clark to enforce the fifth and that he saw it as a “last attempt to delay select committee proceedings,” but said members would listen to Clark. The committee has already voted to recommend contempt charges for Clark, and Thompson has said he will proceed with a House vote if the panel is not satisfied with his compliance in a second statement on Dec. 16.

In his new book, published Tuesday, Meadows reveals that Trump received a positive test for Covid-19 before a presidential debate. It also reveals that when Trump was later hospitalized with Covid, he was much sicker than the White House revealed at the time.

Trump, who told his supporters to “fight like hell” before hundreds of his supporters stormed the Capitol and halted the presidential vote count, has tried to hamper much of the committee’s work, including in the ongoing court case. , arguing that Congress cannot obtain information about their private conversations at the White House.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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