WASHINGTON – Mark Meadows, a White House chief of staff for former President Donald Trump, defied a House committee’s subpoena Friday for documents and testimony about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and his spurring investigations of alleged election fraud.
Meadows became the latest in a string of former administration officials and campaign advisers refusing to cooperate with the investigation. Trump is fighting a subpoena for his administration’s documents in a federal appeals court. And the Justice Department is considering possible criminal contempt charges against Trump political strategist Steve Bannon.
George Terwilliger, a lawyer for Meadows, said in a statement Friday the former chief of staff wouldn’t cooperate with the committee until the court battle over Trump’s executive privilege claims is resolved.
“Our correspondence over the last few weeks shows a sharp legal dispute with the committee,” Terwilliger said. “It would be irresponsible for Mr. Meadows to prematurely resolve that dispute by voluntarily waiving privileges that are at the heart of those legal issues.”
The committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and the top Republican on the panel, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, issued a joint statement Friday warning the committee could pursue contempt proceedings against Meadows. The two threatened to reveal the wide range of matters the committee seeks to discuss with him, if his defiance persists. The lawmakers noted that more than 150 people have cooperated with the probe.
“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Meadows has chosen to join a very small group of witnesses who believe they are above the law and are defying a Select Committee subpoena outright,” the lawmakers said.
The committee had set a Friday deadline for him to appear for a deposition, under the threat of potential criminal prosecution.
“The law requires that Mr. Meadows comply with the subpoena absent an applicable immunity or valid assertion of a Constitutionally based privilege,” Thompson wrote Thursday to Terwilliger.
The committee subpoenaed Meadows on Sept. 23 for his communications with Trump on Jan. 6 and with organizers of a rally where the president spoke before a mob attacked the Capitol.
The committee also seeks information about Meadows contacting the Justice Department requesting investigations into election fraud in several states and encouraging several state officials to investigate allegations of election fraud. More than 60 election lawsuits were dismissed for issues such as lack of standing or merit.
Terwilliger sent a letter to the committee Thursday saying Meadows felt “duty bound” to disregard the subpoena.
Terwilliger had argued in calls and letters to the committee Oct. 7 that Meadows “is immune from compelled congressional testimony on matters relating to his official responsibilities.”
But Thompson replied that President Joe Biden’s waiver of executive privilege for Meadows and others “eviscerates any plausible claim of testimonial immunity.”
Trump has urged former aides and advisers to defy the committee to keep communications with him confidential.
A District Court judge ruled Tuesday the documents could be released. But Trump appealed, arguing that future presidents wouldn’t receive candid advice if it doesn’t remain confidential.
A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled arguments Nov. 30 on whether to prevent the committee from receiving his documents from the National Archives and Records Administration under a claim of executive privilege.
The Justice Department is weighing criminal contempt charges against Bannon, for defying his subpoena. The last time such charges were successfully prosecuted was during the Watergate scandal nearly 50 years ago.
Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who is accused of trying to overturn the 2020 election, attended a committee meeting Nov. 5, but refused to testify. Thompson called the refusal unacceptable.