The committee investigating Jan. 6 wrote in a letter that it has no choice but to advance contempt proceedings against Trump’s former chief of staff
“I love it.” Mark Meadows so wrote in a Nov. 6, 2020, text message to a member of Congress who proposed a “highly controversial” plan overturn the election results by appointing alternate electors in certain states.
The exchange was obtained by the House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, and described in a letter informing the former chief of staff that the committee has “no choice” but to move forward with referring him for criminal contempt prosecution resulting from his refusal to testify.
The letter includes details about some of the thousands of pages of documents Meadows had already provided to the committee before reversing his decision to cooperate, including the text in which he said he loved the plan to keep Trump in office. Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote that the committee has an email from the next day, Nov. 7, that discussed appointing alternate electors as part of a “direct and collateral attack” after the election. He also writes that Meadows handed over another email from Jan. 5 that contained a 38-page PowerPoint briefing called “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN” that was to go to people “on the hill.” A separate email from that same day, Thompson wrote in the letter, discussed having the National Guard on standby.
“All of those documents raise issues about which the Select Committee would like to question Mr. Meadows and about which you appear to agree are not subject to a claim of privilege,” Thompson wrote, adding that Meadows has also withheld “several hundred additional documents” from his personal email and more than 1,000 text messages based on privilege claims.
Meadows’s attorney George J. Terwilliger complained in a letter on Tuesday that the committee was not respecting the privilege claims. “We now have every indication from the information supplied to us last Friday — upon which Mr. Meadows could expect to be questioned — that the Select Committee has no intention of respecting boundaries concerning Executive Privilege,” he wrote.
Thomspon has said, however, that the committee has “tried repeatedly to identify with specificity the areas of inquiry” that Meadows and his attorney believe are subject to executive privilege. “But,” he wrote, “neither you nor Mr. Meadows has meaningfully provided that information.” Thompson also refuted a claim by Terwilliger that he said pleading the Fifth Amendment right to not self-incriminate is “tantamount to an admission of guilt.”
“That is not an accurate characterization of my position on the Fifth Amendment, nor is that interpretation of my comments consistent with our discussions about the purpose of tomorrow’s deposition — i.e., a proceeding in which your client can assert privilege claims with sufficient particularity for further consideration,” Thompson wrote in response.
Meadows told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday evening that he intends to “honor” the former president’s dubious claim of executive privilege to prevent documents and testimony from going to the committee. In his letter to the former chief of staff, Thompson suggested that Meadows’s media interviews and the recent release of his memoir from his time in the White House undermine his privilege argument and underscore his non-compliance with the investigation.
“This occurs at the same time Mr. Meadows has published a book in which he discusses the January 6th attack,” Thompson wrote. “That he would sell his telling of the facts of that day while denying a congressional committee the opportunity to ask him about the attack on our Capitol marks an historic and aggressive defiance of Congress.”
Trump ally Steve Bannon has also tried to claim executive privilege and refused to cooperate, so the committee referred him to the Justice Department, recommending he be charged with contempt of Congress. He was indicted on Nov. 12. Bannon’s trial is set for July 18.
“At this point, hopefully the courts can work it out,” Meadows said on Fox News of his own situation.