Donald Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows refused to testify Friday morning as part of the probe into the violent and deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, raising the possibility that he'll become the second Trump ally to be held in contempt of Congress for his refusal to be interviewed in the probe.
Meadows' lawyer said in a statement Friday morning that Meadows is in a "sharp legal dispute" with the House's January 6 select committee over whether Meadows' communications with Trump are privileged, and said that Meadows would not testify until those "disputes are appropriately resolved by courts."
"It would be irresponsible for Mr. Meadows to prematurely resolve that dispute by voluntarily waiving privileges that are at the heart of those legal issues," the lawyer said in the statement sent to reporters.
The January 6 committee subpoenaed Meadows, who served as chief of staff in the final months of the Trump administration, in September. House investigators requested for him to sit for a deposition on October 15, a deadline that passed weeks ago.
The committee is now stepping up its threats as Meadows continues to refuse cooperation.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chair of the select committee probing the insurrection, said in a letter to Meadows' lawyer on Thursday that there is "no valid legal basis for Mr. Meadows's continued resistance to the Select Committee's subpoena," adding that the committee will view Meadows' "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."
The letter continued:
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.
Meadows would be the second former Trump administration official to be held in contempt of Congress if the committee follows through with its threat.
In October, 229 House lawmakers — including nine Republicans — voted to hold former Trump campaign adviser Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress. The Department of Justice is currently weighing whether to charge Bannon, a delay that has frustrated some Democrats on the committee, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who told CNN earlier in November, "Any perception that the rule of law does not apply is a harmful one."
The committee's tussle with Meadows is the latest obstacle in its attempt to investigate the roots of the Jan. 6 riots and how similar attacks can be prevented in the future.
It also faces a challenge from Trump, who is looking to block the National Archives from releasing documents sought by the committee.
After a district court judge ruled on Tuesday that the documents must be turned over to the committee, a higher court, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, blocked the release of the documents until the case can be heard, following a request by Trump's lawyers. A hearing is currently set for November 30.
The delays by Trump and his allies appear to be an attempt to thwart the investigation for as long as possible. If Republicans reclaim control of the House after the 2022 midterm elections, they could then shut down the probe before its work can be completed.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.