The select committee investigating the Capitol riot recommended Monday that the House hold former President Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena.
The select panel also shared a series of anxious text messages that Meadows had received on Jan. 6, including from Fox News hosts and Trump’s own son, urging him to get the president to do something to stop the invasion.
“He’s got to condemn this s— ASAP,” Donald Trump Jr. texted Meadows at one point, select committee vice chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., revealed.
Meadows had refused to sit for a deposition to answer investigators’ questions about the then-president’s actions on Jan. 6. He is the third Trump associate to face the threat of possible criminal charges stemming from the probe of the deadly attack, when hundreds of Trump’s supporters invaded the Capitol and temporarily stopped Congress from confirming President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
The bipartisan, nine-member panel voted unanimously in support of a 51-page report that includes a resolution recommending that the House find Meadows in contempt for defying a subpoena for documents and testimony.
Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., flanked by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., left, and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks during the House Select Committee to Investigate January 6th Committee Full Committee markup hearing of the “Report Recommending that the House of Representatives Cite Mark Randall Meadows for Criminal Contempt of Congress” on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021.
Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
Meadows had handed over thousands of records, the committee said, before reversing course and refusing to cooperate, citing Trump’s assertion that Meadows’ testimony is protected by executive privilege.
“When the records raise questions — as these most certainly do — you have to come in and answer those questions,” select committee chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said before the vote in a public meeting Monday evening.
“And when it was time for him to follow the law, come in, and testify on those questions, he changed his mind and told us to pound sand. He didn’t even show up,” Thompson said.
The records produced by Meadows leave “no doubt” that the White House knew about the violent riot that was taking place at the Capitol as the chaos unfolded, Cheney said in the meeting.
She and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., read out a series of panicked messages that pro-Trump Fox News hosts, congressional lawmakers and others had sent Meadows during the riot.
“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy,” Cheney said, quoting a text from Fox host Laura Ingraham.
“Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished,” texted Brian Kilmeade of “Fox & Friends,” according to Cheney.
“Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol,” urged Sean Hannity, Cheney said.
Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s oldest son, texted Meadows “again and again,” Cheney said.
“We need an Oval Office address,” Trump Jr. wrote in one message, according to Cheney. “He’s got to condemn this s— ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough,” he wrote in another, Cheney said.
“I’m pushing it hard. I agree,” Meadows responded, according to Cheney.
Trump, noted Cheney, did not take action for 187 minutes after the attack began.
Instead of appearing for his scheduled deposition last week, Meadows sued the committee and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asking the court to invalidate two of the panel’s subpoenas.
Meadows’ legal complaint leans on Trump’s instruction for him not to comply with the subpoena, putting Meadows in the “untenable position of choosing between conflicting privilege claims” put forward by Trump and incumbent President Joe Biden.
Trump has sued to block the National Archives from sending a slew of White House records to the Jan. 6 committee. He argues that the records are protected by executive privilege. Biden, however, waived privilege over those documents.
A federal district court judge and a panel of three federal appeals court judges have rejected Trump’s privilege claims.
The House had already voted to hold former White House senior advisor Steve Bannon in contempt for his own noncompliance with a subpoena issued by the Jan. 6 panel. A federal grand jury subsequently charged Bannon with two counts of contempt of Congress.
Bannon has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000 for each count. A federal judge set a tentative July 18 start date for Bannon’s trial.
Last week, the select committee voted to advance contempt proceedings for ex-Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, though the investigators also gave him a time extension to comply with the probe.