The House voted 222-208 Tuesday to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation.
Meadows, a former Republican member of Congress from North Carolina, engaged in weeks of negotiations with the committee that resulted in him turning over thousands of records and agreeing to testify before ultimately backing out the day after his book was released, claiming executive and other privileges. The committee took issue with Meadows releasing a book about his experience in the White House, including on Jan. 6, and then refusing to testify with the committee.
“He’s willing to talk about it in his book,” Rep. Jamie Raskin said of Meadows book “The Chief’s Chief,” which discusses Jan. 6. “He’s willing to talk about it in public, but he is unwilling to undergo the questioning of our committee despite having been subpoenaed to do so in deposition.”
Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and member of the select committee, said Meadows nullified his executive privilege claims with the 9,000 pages of records he gave the committee.
“It’s now clear he has no intention of complying with the subpoena even when his testimony could have no theoretical connection to an executive privilege claim,” Raskin said of Meadows.
Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., spoke out against the contempt resolution, saying that Meadows attempted to cooperate with the committee.
“He tried to cooperate, but the select committee didn’t care,” Banks said.
“They don’t care about fairness or due process. The point isn’t cooperation, nor fact-finding. They care about punishment,” Banks said.
The floor debate was delayed after Banks took issue with comments made by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., requested that Hoyer’s words be taken down after he noted Banks voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results and against forming an independent commission on the Jan. 6 attack.
Hoyer said he’s “not surprised that the gentleman from Indiana does not want to see this subpoena honored because, madam speaker, I believe that he fears the information that would be brought forward. Fearing the truth is not an excuse for not honoring a subpoena of this Congress.”
After a delay, the chair ruled Hoyer’s remarks were not inappropriate.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington will now decide whether to pursue an indictment.
Earlier in the day, Cheney told the House Rule Committee: “We must investigate the facts in detail and we are entitled to ask Mr. Meadows about the non privileged materials he has produced to us,” adding, “Any argument that the courts need to resolve privilege issues first is a pretext.”
Meadows has argued through his lawyer, George Terwilliger III, that he made a legitimate privilege claim and that Congress should have held off on pursuing contempt until the courts rule on a lawsuit he filed. That lawsuit asks the courts to stop the House from enforcing subpoenas related to him and Verizon, and to stop the House from viewing or disclosing information obtained from those subpoenas.
Terwilliger said in a statement ahead of the contempt vote that Meadows “has maintained consistently that as a former Chief of Staff he cannot be compelled to appear for questioning and that he as a witness is not licensed to waive Executive Privilege claimed by the former president.” He added that Meadows has “fully cooperated” with regard to nonprivileged documents in his possession.
House Republican leadership recommended a “no” vote on holding Meadows in contempt, citing, among other reasons, that he made good faith efforts to cooperate and produced thousands of pages of nonprivileged emails and other documents.
Meadows produced to the committee many text messages, emails and other documents that shed more light on the time leading up to and the day of the attack. On Jan. 6, Meadows received several urgent text messages from members, Fox News hosts, Donald Trump Jr., administration officials and others imploring him to get Trump to stop the violent rioters as they were storming the Capitol.
Raskin on the floor highlighted a lawmaker's text message sent to Meadows on Nov. 4, 2020. The text suggested an “aggressive strategy” to have Republican controlled legislatures declare the election “BS,” and send their own electors.
“HERE’s an AGGRESSIVE STRATEGY: Why can t [sic] the states of GA NC PENN and other R controlled state houses declare this is BS (where conflicts and election not called that night) and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS,” the text said. The lawmaker was not identified.
Another member of the select panel, Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., called attention to a text sent by another unidentified member to Meadows on Jan. 5 that says “Please check your signal,” referring to the encrypted messaging application. Luria said the panel wants to ask Meadows about those communications.
As for when the panel will provide insight into whom the House Republican members that contacted Meadows are, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said that would happen in “due course.”
Cheney cited several texts that she said underscore Trump’s “supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes,” and the need for Meadows to testify before the committee to better understand whether Trump corruptly sought to impede Congress’ official duty to count electoral votes.
Cheney read more texts sent to Meadows by GOP members Tuesday at the Rules meeting. One said, “It is really bad up here on the hill.” Another read, “The president needs to stop this ASAP.” A third text said, “Fix this now.”
Meadows on Nov. 26 provided documents from his personal email and a privilege log showing hundreds of other materials were withheld on the basis of executive, attorney-client or other privilege claims. On Dec. 3, Meadows handed over particular relevant text messages on his personal phone and said he withheld over 1,000 texts on claims of privilege.
Meadows’ testimony is of particular interest to the committee because he is among a group of people who were in close proximity to Trump in the White House as the insurrection unfolded. Meadows spoke with Kashyap Patel, who was chief of staff to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and apparently has insight into Trump’s role regarding the National Guard’s response, the committee’s contempt report says.
The panel is also interested in an email Meadows sent about Jan. 6 that said the National Guard would be there to “protect pro Trump people” and that there would be additional troops on standby. The Guard’s delayed response was a grave issue during the Capitol attack.
Meadows also made a trip to Georgia, a crucial swing state in the 2020 presidential election, to watch an audit after Trump falsely claimed fraud in the process and Meadows used a personal account to contact the secretary of state, the panel said.
Former Trump adviser Bannon was indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress in November. His trial is scheduled to begin in July. Unlike Meadows, Bannon was a private citizen leading up to and on the day of the Capitol attack.
The select panel recommended former Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark be held in contempt, but the full House has yet to vote on a resolution concerning Clark because he struck an agreement with the committee to sit for a deposition Dec. 16, in which he is scheduled to assert his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on a case by case basis.
Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor crime that carries a maximum fine of $100,000 and a year in jail.