Trump ex-chief of staff Meadows ends cooperation with Capitol riot panel

FILE PHOTO: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in Washington

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Mark Meadows, who served as former President Donald Trump's White House chief of staff, has decided not to cooperate with the congressional committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, and the panel said on Tuesday it is prepared to pursue contempt charges against him.

Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House of Representatives Select Committee, said in a statement that the panel would take action if Meadows fails to show up for a deposition scheduled for Wednesday.

"If indeed Mr. Meadows refuses to appear, the Select 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 said in a statement.

Fox News first reported Meadows' decision not to cooperate earlier on Tuesday. The Democratic-led committee last week said Meadows had provided records and agreed to appear "soon" for a deposition after failing to show up for a previously scheduled one.

Thompson said his committee has questions for Meadows about records he has provided including "real-time communications" that occurred as the Capitol riot took place. The panel also wants to hear from Meadows about "voluminous official records" in his personal telephone and email accounts, Thompson added.

Meadows served as a Republican House member until he joined Trump's administration last year. If he disregards the committee's subpoena, the panel could pursue contempt of Congress charges, as it has against Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark.

On Jan. 6, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to prevent formal congressional certification of his 2020 presidential election loss to Democrat Joe Biden. Before the riot, Trump gave a speech to his supporters repeating his false claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud and urging them to go to the Capitol and "fight like hell" to "stop the steal."

Trump has urged associates not to cooperate with the committee, calling the investigation politically motivated and arguing that his communications are protected by executive privilege, although many legal experts have said that legal principle does not apply to former presidents.

Thompson noted that even as the committee and Trump's attorneys battle in court over executive privilege issues, Meadows revealed details about circumstances surrounding the Jan. 6 attack including conversations with Trump in a new book that Meadows is currently promoting.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Will Dunham)