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 also noted 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 as the events of January 6th unfolded”.
Mr Meadows has steadfastly refused to answer the committee’s questions about whether he used a private mobile phone to conduct business on 6 January — a tactic frequently used by former Trump administration officials to circumvent federal record keeping laws — or where any emails or text messages he sent or recieved on that phone are currently located.
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.
Committee members considered moving to hold Mr Meadows in contempt as recently as a week ago, but had agreed to put such proceedings on hold after he agreed appear for a deposition on Wednesday.
Mr Thompson and Ms Cheney said the deposition their former colleague agreed to would take place, and he 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.