Mr Meadows is refusing to cooperate with the body he served in from 2013-2020
The House select committee investigating the 6 January insurrection will begin contempt proceedings against former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows unless he appears at a previously-scheduled deposition on Wednesday.
On Monday, Mr Meadows’ attorney notified committee members that the former North Carolina congressman would halt all attempts to cooperate with the investigation of the worst attack on the Capitol since the 1814 Burning of Washington because the committee had issued “wide ranging subpoenas for information from a third party communications provider”.
In a statement select committee chairman Bennie Thompson and vice chair Liz Cheney said committee members “need to hear from him about voluminous official records stored in his personal phone and email accounts, which were required to be turned over to the National Archives in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.”
They added that they committee has “numerous questions” for Mr Meadows about records he has turned over that could not be subject to claims of executive privilege, a legal doctrine which shields communications between and among a president and his advisers.
Those records, Mr Thompson and Ms Cheney said, “include real-time communications with many individuals” which took place as a mob of former president Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in hopes of preventing congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
Mr Meadows has steadfastly refused to answer questions about whether he used a private mobile phone to conduct business that day — a tactic frequently used by former Trump administration officials to circumvent federal record keeping laws — or tell committee members where any emails or text messages he sent or recieved on that phone are currently located.
But at least one witness who is cooperating with the investigation — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — has told committee members that he recieved text messages which came from a private email account belonging to the then-White House chief of staff.
Mr Thompson and Ms Cheney also noted that Mr Meadows’ refusal to cooperate comes at the same time he appears willing “provide details about the facts and circumstances surrounding the January 6th attack, including conversations with President Trump” in his book, The Chief’s Chief, which was released to the public on Tuesday.
Mr Meadows and his attorney have claimed that conversations he may have had with former president Donald Trump on 6 January would be protected by executive privilege, but most legal experts say that his decision to include details about what he discussed with Mr Trump that day in his book amounts to a waiver of that privilege.
Legal experts also say that Mr Meadows has no right to invoke the privilege as a basis for his refusal to answer questions because it is Mr Biden — not Mr Trump or Mr Meadows — who decides whether executive privilege can be used to shield documents from or testimony by a former president’s advisers.
Mr Biden has so far declined to do so, citing what White House press secretary Jen Psaki has called the “unique and extraordinary” circumstances presented by the worst attack on America’s seat of government since the War of 1812, resulting in the first non-peaceful transfer of power in American history.
In a letter sent to Mr Terwilliger last month, White House deputy counsel Jonathan Su informed the attorney that Mr Biden would not be asserting any privileges or immunities over anything requested by the committee.
Committee members previously considered moving to hold Mr Meadows in contempt one week ago, but had agreed to put such proceedings on hold after he agreed to appear for a deposition scheduled for 8 December.
Mr Thompson and Ms Cheney said the deposition their former colleague previously agreed to would indeed take place, vowing that Mr Meadows will be subject to consequences if he does not present himself to give evidence.
“Tomorrow’s deposition, which was scheduled at Mr. Meadows’s request, will go forward as planned. If indeed Mr. Meadows refuses to appear, the Select Committee will be left no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution,” they said.
The committee has already approved contempt citations against former Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Clark and ex-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, the latter of whom is set to be tried in a District of Columbia federal court on two counts of criminal contempt of congress next summer. If convicted on both counts, Mr Bannon could face up to two years in jail.