Politics

Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows blows off appearance at Jan. 6 Capitol riot House panel

Key Points
  • Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows failed to appear Friday for a scheduled deposition for the select House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
  • Meadows' lawyer has said he is following the direction of former President Donald Trump, who argues that executive privilege protects Meadows from testifying.
  • Former White House advisor Steve Bannon was held in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with his own subpoena from the panel.
  • The riot erupted after Trump and allies urged supporters to protest against the confirmation of the Electoral College victory of President Joe Biden.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) talks with reporters in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill October 19, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows failed to appear Friday for a scheduled deposition for the select House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Meadows' no-show at the panel, which was expected after his lawyer said Thursday he would not appear despite a subpoena demanding his testimony, could lead to him being found in contempt of Congress, the panel previously warned.

That, in turn, could lead to a referral to the Department of Justice for possible criminal charges, the panel's chairman said Thursday.

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The House on Oct. 21 voted to hold Steve Bannon, a former senior Trump White House advisor, in contempt of Congress for ignoring a subpoena for his deposition and records. The Justice Department has not decided whether to prosecute Bannon for criminal contempt.

Select House committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told Meadows' lawyer in a letter Thursday, "Simply put, there is no valid legal basis for Mr. Meadows's continued resistance to the Select Committee's subpoena."

The Republican Meadows, who previously represented a North Carolina district in the House, and Bannon are among more than a dozen former Trump White House officials and allies who have received subpoenas for testimony and documents from the select committee.

The panel is probing events leading up to and during the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol complex by a horde of supporters of former President Donald Trump.

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The riot disrupted a joint session of Congress that was certifying the Electoral College victory of President Joe Biden in his race against Trump.

Meadows' lawyer, George Terwilliger III, said in a statement Thursday that his client's decision not to comply with the House subpoena is the result of an order from Trump, who claims that such testimony would violate the executive privilege accorded presidents.

Biden has refused to invoke executive privilege for Trump officials and records in the House's inquiry.

Terwilliger in his statement noted that fact, writing, "Contrary to decades of consistent bipartisan opinions from the Justice Department that senior aides cannot be compelled by Congress to give testimony, this is the first President to make no effort whatsoever to protect presidential communications from being the subject of compelled testimony."

"Mr. Meadows remains under the instructions of former President Trump to respect longstanding principles of executive privilege," Terwilliger wrote. "It now appears the courts will have to resolve this conflict."

Trump has made the same argument based on executive privilege in a lawsuit seeking to bar the National Archives from transferring records from his administration to the House committee.

That lawsuit is now before the federal appeals court in Washington after a district judge ruled that Trump, as a former president, does not have the power to invoke executive privilege in this issue.

Thompson, in a letter to Terwilliger, said, "The law requires that Mr. Meadows comply with the subpoena absent an applicable immunity or valid assertion of a Constitutionally based privilege."

Thompson attached a letter from the White House counsel's office, which, he wrote, "eviscerates any plausible claim of testimonial immunity or executive privilege, and compels compliance with the Select Committee's subpoena."

He concluded by writing that Meadows' failure to appear for his deposition and his failure to produce documents under the subpoena could result in criminal and/or civil action against him.

"Such willful non-compliance with the subpoena would force the Select Committee to consider invoking the contempt of Congress procedures ... which could result in a referral from the House of Representatives to the Department of Justice for criminal charges — as well as the possibility of having a civil action to enforce the subpoena brought against Mr. Meadows in his personal capacity," Thompson wrote.