The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol breach voted 9-0 on Monday to recommend that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows be held in contempt of Congress, following up on a threat to do so last week over his refusal to cooperate with their probe.
Meadows last week said he would not appear for a deposition at the select committee’s request. He also sued the committee, arguing it did not have the authority to compel him to talk. The lawsuit, filed in a Washington D.C. federal court, asks a judge to invalidate two subpoenas that he says are “overly broad and unduly burdensome.”
The Jan. 6 panel’s Monday vote sends the measure to the full House, which is expected to vote on it as soon as Tuesday on whether to request the Justice Department of the Biden administration prosecute Meadows.
Meadows, a Republican, served as a U.S. House representative for North Carolina’s 11th congressional district prior to joining the Trump administration.
If the House passes the measure, Meadows would become the second Trump associate to be charged by the Democrat-majority chamber for defying a subpoena. Steve Bannon was held in contempt of congress in October and pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges after he refused to comply with a subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee.
But Meadows took offense to the panel issuing subpoenas for information from third parties, as well as to how Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the panel’s chairman, recently said that one asserting their Fifth Amendment rights was akin to an admission of guilt.
“As a result of careful and deliberate consideration of these factors, we now must decline the opportunity to appear voluntarily for a deposition,” Meadow’s attorney, George Terwilliger III, wrote in the letter.
Terwilliger has not responded to a request for comment over the latest Jan. 6 committee vote.
In a 51-page report (pdf) released over the weekend recommending the contempt charge, the Jan. 6 committee shared the kind of questions they would have asked Meadows if he had appeared for the deposition.
Among multiple items, the report alleged that Meadows on Jan. 2 contacted President Donald Trump and other state and federal officials over a call “to discuss overturning certain states’ electoral college results.”
He “later sent the former vice president’s staff a memo drafted by a Trump campaign lawyer urging the vice president to delay or decline the counting of votes from certain states,” the report alleged.
The report also alleged that Meadows “sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to ‘protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby.”
Earlier Monday, Terwilliger issued the committee a letter (pdf) telling it to refrain from voting on the measure to refer Meadows to be prosecuted by the Justice Department.
“Such a referral would be contrary to law. The Select Committee and the House should make no such referral,” he wrote, adding that “a good-faith invocation of executive privilege and testimonial immunity by a former senior executive official” is not a crime.
Thompson and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the Jan. 6 panel’s vice chair, previously indicated they want to hear from Meadows regarding records he turned over to the committee and about records he has not that are stored on his phone and email accounts.
They alleged Meadows failed to adhere to the Presidential Records Act by withholding the records.
The Jan. 6 committee has faced increasing criticism from many Republicans. It was formed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) after the Senate GOP blocked a bill that would have approved a commission to probe Jan. 6.
Pelosi refused to seat members picked by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and chose Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), both known for their fervent opposition to Trump, as the only Republican members.
The panel has struggled at times with its accuracy. Besides the misleading claim about the Fifth Amendment, it sent out a subpoena with misinformation, but still hasn’t alerted the public despite acknowledging as much in private.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.