The House select committee investigating January 6 is demanding former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appear for a deposition and turn over documents Friday or risk a criminal contempt referral, according to a letter Thursday from panel Chairman Bennie Thompson.
Meadows has been facing new pressure to cooperate with the committee after he was notified earlier Thursday that President Joe Biden will not assert executive privilege or immunity over documents and testimony requested by the panel, according to a copy obtained by CNN. The move to set a final compliance date for Meadows comes after his attorney issued a statement Thursday saying he would not cooperate with the committee until courts ruled on former President Donald Trump’s claim of executive privilege.
The committee on Thursday took its first step toward possibly referring Meadows to the Department of Justice for contempt of Congress if he fails to comply with Friday’s deadline.
“The Select Committee will view Mr. Meadows’s failure to appear at the deposition, and to produce responsive documents or a privilege log indicating the specific basis for withholding any documents you believe are protected by privilege, as willful non-compliance,” Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, wrote. “Such willful noncompliance with the subpoena would force the Select Committee to consider invoking the contempt of Congress procedures in 2 U.S.C. §§ 192, 194—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.”
Earlier Thursday, White House Deputy Counsel Jonathan Su wrote to Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger, informing him of Biden’s decision and once again citing “the unique and extraordinary circumstances where Congress is investigating an effort to obstruct the lawful transfer of power under our Constitution.”
Su notes that Biden has already determined that executive privilege does not apply to particular subjects within the committee’s purview, including “events within the White House on or about January 6, 2021; attempts to use the Department of Justice to advance a false narrative that the 2020 election was tainted by widespread fraud; and other efforts to alter election results or obstruct the transfer of power.”
The Washington Post first reported Su’s letter.
“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. It now appears the courts will have to resolve this conflict,” Terwilliger told CNN in a statement.
Su’s letter came after CNN previously reported that members of the House select committee are losing patience with the pace of talks with Meadows, and some are considering whether more aggressive steps are needed to force his compliance in the sweeping probe.
Also Thursday, a White House official pushed back forcefully against Terwilliger’s claims, telling CNN he is “wrong on both the facts and the law.”
“Mark Meadows hardly has claim to complain about norms and traditions — Meadows participated in an effort to subvert the Constitution and overturn a presidential election, including by pressuring state elections officials to alter election results and by personally attempting to coerce the Department of Justice into investigating absurd conspiracy theories,” the official said.
Meadows was subpoenaed in September, and since then the committee has indicated he’s been “engaging” in negotiations over the terms of his turning over documents and appearing for a deposition.
But weeks after the committee granted Meadows a “short” but indefinite postponement of the initial subpoena deadline, members are growing increasingly frustrated and have been contemplating when and how to ramp up the pressure.
Among the options being considered is officially setting a new deadline for Meadows to comply with the committee’s subpoena or risk being held in criminal contempt, the path it pursued with Trump ally Steve Bannon. After making clear from the outset that he had no intention of cooperating with the panel, Bannon now faces possible prosecution for defying his subpoena.
On Tuesday, the committee also subpoenaed two former White House officials who worked closely with Meadows in an effort to learn more about his efforts to communicate with others relevant to the probe — including election officials in Georgia, organizers of January 6 events and high-level officials at the Department of Justice.
This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.
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