Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaking to the media in October 2020. Alamy Stock Photo
Mark Meadows

US Capitol riot panel moves to hold Trump aide in contempt

A report found that Mark Meadows sent an email on 5 January saying the National Guard was on standby to “protect pro-Trump people.”

LAWMAKERS INVESTIGATING THE assault on the US Capitol today prepared to vote on recommending criminal contempt charges against Donald Trump’s former chief of staff for refusing to testify.

Mark Meadows has made clear he has no intention of complying with a subpoena to appear before the cross-party 6 January congressional select committee and missed a scheduled deposition for the second time last week.

Members are investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election through a campaign that led to the deadly Capitol riot – and the help he got from Meadows.

Trump’s fourth and final White House chief told the panel he would withhold testimony until courts resolve his former boss’s claim of “executive privilege,” which allows presidents to keep certain conversations private.

Investigators maintain Meadows has undermined any right to refuse testimony, as the ultra-conservative former congressman is promoting a new memoir that includes detailed accounts of 6 January and his conversations with Trump.

Many of the questions they want to ask him concern 6,600 pages of records taken from personal email accounts and about 2,000 text messages that he turned over before he stopped cooperating.

‘Uniquely situated’

“There’s no way to sustain the argument that ‘I can’t come in and testify because that would be privileged but here are all these documents on this very subject, which I admit are not privileged. I can’t come in and testify before Congress, but I can write about it in my book,’” panel member Adam Schiff told MSNBC.

“You can’t have it both ways. And so we will proceed and, I believe, hold him in criminal contempt.”

An appeals court last week rejected Trump’s effort to stop the committee accessing documents and testimony from former White House aides, agreeing with a lower court that the defeated ex-president had provided no reason for secrecy. He was given two weeks to appeal.

Meadows was Trump’s most senior aide at the time of the riot and was reportedly with the then-president in the White House as the rioters breached the Capitol.

The committee says he is “uniquely situated to provide key information, having straddled an official role in the White House and unofficial role related to Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign.”

The probe released a 51-page document Sunday describing some of Meadows’ communications, including a 5 January email in which he told an unidentified person the National Guard was on standby to “protect pro-Trump people.”

‘Unwise, unjust and unfair’

The committee will green-light the contempt citation this evening and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is expected to vote Tuesday to refer Meadows to the Justice Department.

A timetable for a charging decision has yet to be revealed. If convicted, Meadows could face a six-month prison term for each contempt charge, but more likely would be fined.

Accusing the select committee of abusing its powers, Meadows sued its nine members and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week, asking a federal court to block enforcement of the subpoenas issued to him and to Verizon for his phone records.

His lawyer George Terwilliger wrote to the panel today to denounce the proposed prosecution as “manifestly unwise, unjust and unfair.”

Thousands of Trump supporters, many associated with ultra-nationalist and white supremacist groups, stormed the Capitol 11 months ago in an effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory.

In a fiery speech earlier that day, Trump repeated false claims of election fraud that he had been making for months and called on supporters to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell.”

The House voted to recommend charges against ex-White House strategist Steve Bannon in October. He faces trial in July on two counts of contempt.

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