Donald Trump’s former chief of staff testified before a grand jury in Washington DC, according to multiple media reports, in the surest sign in weeks that the Department of Justice’s investigation into January 6 has reached the highest levels of the White House.
His testimony, and the general topics it touched on, was first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by CNN; it remains unclear, however, exactly when Mr Meadows spoke to the grand jury or the extent of the information he gave. However, a spokesperson for the former White House chief of staff for the Trump administration seemed to indicate that Mr Meadows had given up some information.
“Without commenting on whether or not Mr. Meadows has testified before the grand jury or in any other proceeding, Mr Meadows has maintained a commitment to tell the truth where he has a legal obligation to do so,” George Terwilliger, his attorney, told CNN.
The testimony and evidence he eventually provided was among that which Mr Trump attempted to stifle via legal means following his departure from the White House; attorneys for the ex-president claimed that Mr Meadows was protected by executive privilege. A judge rejected that argument and ordered the former Trump aide to speak to the grand jury.
According to CNN, the former chief of staff spoke to the grand jury about both the January 6 investigation, which reportedly also encompasses Mr Trump’s larger efforts to overturn the 2020 election, as well as the investigation into whether presidential records including classified documents were illegally retained by the Trump team during their exit from the White House.
Mr Trump appealed the order requiring his former deputy to testify as recently as March, but like a separate case in which his attorney Evan Corcoran was ordered to testify, his arguments have failed thus far in the face of legal precedent dating back to the Watergate era which gives federal criminal investigations a priority over executive privilege.
Mr Meadows, as chief of staff to the ex-president, was in charge of managing the White House on a day-to-day basis, including the decisions regarding which guests were penciled in on the president’s schedule. His testimony was thought to be a major priority for the special counsel’s office headed up by Jack Smith, as the members of Mr Trump’s legal team working in Washington in the days after the 2020 election to overturn the results regularly briefed their boss in the Oval Office, with Mr Meadows in attendance.
The former president and his ever-changing legal team continue to insist that there is no legal basis for prosecution of him, despite a recommendation from a bipartisan committee in the House that he be charged with giving comfort to an insurrection. He also remains under investigation for multiple other situations; most recently, the former president was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in New York.