January 6 committee looks at Meadows in contempt vote but ‘in no hurry’
Washington — The chair of the House committee investigating the U.S. Capitol mutiny said Jan. 6 that there was still time for former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to comply with a subpoena before the committee moved forward with a vote in contempt of Congress.
Representative Penny Thompson, Democrat, said Tuesday that the committee “will not be in a rush to make efforts” to make clear it gave the former North Carolina congressman multiple opportunities for cooperation. At the same time, the committee is ready to attack Meadows in the coming weeks if he does not provide lawmakers with any information about his role, and that of former President Donald Trump, as the Capitol was attacked that day.
The panel is also discussing a vote to hold former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark accountable for contempt after Clark appeared to testify earlier this month and declined to answer questions. Clark is a former assistant attorney general who allied with Trump after Trump lost the 2020 election and lobbied the Department of Justice to help reverse his defeat.
“We believe we are in full swing at this point, but on counsel’s advice, we want to be able to indicate that we have made the best possible effort in good faith to obtain this information,” Thompson told reporters on Tuesday. . He said the committee was unlikely to hold a vote of contempt before lawmakers leave town for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Meadows’ attorney has made it clear repeatedly that he will not comply with the September subpoena, arguing that Trump said he would assert an executive privilege of testimony. Meadows was Trump’s top aide at the time of the rebellion, unlike Steve Bannon, Trump’s longtime ally, who was despised by the House in October and indicted last week. Bannon had left the White House years earlier.
The committee dismissed those arguments, particularly because the White House said President Joe Biden would waive any privilege over meeting Meadows and because courts have so far overturned Trump’s efforts to prevent the committee from collecting information. The House committee argued that they have questions for Meadows and Clark, as they did with Bannon, which do not include direct talks with Trump and cannot be blocked by franchise claims.
“We will have a similar extended discussion with Meadows and Clark as we did with Bannon,” Thompson said.
Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger, said last week that the courts will have to decide whether the lien applies.
“It would be irresponsible for Mr. Meadows to prematurely resolve this dispute by voluntarily waiving the privileges that are at the heart of those legal issues,” Terwilliger said.
One of the committee’s focus areas is Meadows’ personal phone and email, and whether he used it to communicate with others where hundreds of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol and before that.
“If, in fact, he used a personal phone instead of a government phone while he was chief of staff, that limits his argument that he is protected — or email,” Thompson said.
A prolific script, Meadows was known to use a personal phone number during his tenure as White House chief of staff. That number, which has since been separated, was the same number he used as a Republican congressman, with an area code from his state of North Carolina.
Trump administration officials have been frequently cited for using personal emails to conduct government business.
In the committee’s subpoena in September, Thompson cited Meadows’ efforts to reverse Trump’s defeat in the weeks leading up to the uprising and his pressure on state officials to advance the former president’s false allegations of widespread voter fraud.
“You were the president’s chief of staff and hold important information on many elements of our investigation,” Thompson wrote. “It appears that you were with or near President Trump on January 6, and had contact with the President and others on January 6 regarding events at the Capitol and witness to today’s activities.”
Bannon on Monday surrendered to FBI agents after he was indicted on two federal charges of criminal contempt — one for refusing to appear before Congress and another for refusing to submit documents in response to the committee’s subpoena.
He appeared before a judge on Monday to face federal criminal charges and is due to return to court on Thursday.
Bannon’s attorney, David Schoen, said his client did not appear before Congress after Trump claimed executive privilege would be enforced.
Bannon spoke with Trump before the rebellion and predicted on January 5 that “all hell is going to explode” the next day.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
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