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Jan. 6 committee threatens contempt proceedings after Meadows stops cooperating

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  • Mark Meadows
    American politician

WASHINGTON — Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Tuesday that he is no longer cooperating with a House committee's investigation of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, prompting the panel to threaten contempt proceedings if he skips a scheduled deposition.

In an interview on the streaming news network Real America's Voice, Meadows said the committee intended to ask about topics that he considers protected by executive privilege.

"In addition, we found that in spite of our cooperation and sharing documents with them, they had issued, unbeknownst to us and not without even a courtesy call, issued a subpoena to a third-party carrier trying to get information," Meadows said. "And so, at this point, we, we feel like it's best that we just continue to honor the executive privilege, and it looks like the courts are going to have to weigh in on this."

CNN first reported that Meadows is no longer cooperating.

The chair of the select committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and the vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said Tuesday that if Meadows, a former House member from North Carolina, refuses to appear at a deposition scheduled for Wednesday, the 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."

Thompson and Cheney added in a statement that even as privilege issues are litigated, the committee has "numerous questions" about records Meadows has turned over to the committee "with no claim of privilege, which include real-time communications with many individuals as the events of January 6th unfolded."

Meadows denied Tuesday that anyone in the West Wing during the Trump administration had advance knowledge of a security breach at the Capitol.

"Hopefully in the end they will see that I've tried to cooperate, but they failed to meet us halfway," he said.

Meadows' comments coincided with the release of his new book Tuesday.

Thompson said last month that there is a "wide range of matters the select committee wished to discuss with Mr. Meadows."

In letters it released in September, the committee said Meadows had significant information about former President Donald Trump's actions on Jan. 6 and that he was reported to have communicated with officials at the state level and in the Justice Department "as part of an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election or prevent the election's certification."

The House committee has issued batches of subpoenas in recent weeks to dozens of Trump administration officials and allies of the former president.

Some of those who have been subpoenaed are engaging with the committee. Marc Short, who was chief of staff to then-Vice President Mike Pence, is now cooperating, two people familiar with the panel's activities said.

The committee said last week that Meadows had begun cooperating with the investigation after he previously failed to show up to answer questions under oath. The committee had been considering whether to pursue charges of criminal contempt of Congress against him.

Steve Bannon, who was an aide to Trump, was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress last month after he refused to respond to a subpoena from the committee seeking documents and testimony related to the attack. The fact that the Justice Department was willing to charge Bannon, despite an assertion of executive privilege, has increased pressure on other reluctant witnesses to agree to cooperate with the investigation.

Last week, an appeals court appeared skeptical of Trump's claim that executive privilege should prevent the committee from getting scores of documents created when he was in the White House. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Trump's argument, but an appeals court granted a brief stay.

The appeals panel is likely to issue its ruling quickly. Whichever side loses can go to the full D.C. appeals court or directly to the Supreme Court.

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