Meadows Sues Jan. 6 Panel 12/09 06:19
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on
Wednesday sued the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol
insurrection as the chairman of the panel pledged to move forward with contempt
charges against him for defying a subpoena.
The dueling actions laid bare simmering tensions between the committee and
Meadows, seen by lawmakers on the panel as a pivotal player in their
investigation, and reflected a remarkable turnabout from last week, when
Meadows' lawyer had declared his intention of cooperating with the committee on
certain areas of their inquiry.
Meadows' lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, asks a judge to
invalidate two subpoenas that he says are "overly broad and unduly burdensome."
It accuses the committee of overreaching by issuing a subpoena to Verizon for
his cell phone records.
"Allowing an entirely partisan select committee of Congress to subpoena the
personal cell phone data of executive officials would work a massive chilling
of current and future Executive Branch officials' associational and free speech
rights," the lawsuit states.
The complaint was filed hours after Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, the
committee chairman, declared he had "no choice" but to proceed with contempt
charges against Meadows, who was subpoenaed more than two months ago and did
not show up Wednesday for a scheduled deposition. Meadows' lawyer, George
Terwilliger, told the committee on Tuesday that his client was ending his
In a letter responding to Terwilliger, Thompson noted that Meadows has
already provided documents to the committee, including personal emails and
texts about President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election
defeat, and has also published a book, released this week, that discusses the
Jan. 6 attack.
"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," Thompson wrote.
The move to hold Meadows in contempt comes as the committee has struggled to
gain compliance from a few of the former president's closest and most
high-profile allies. Still, the panel has already conducted more than 250
interviews with witnesses as they attempt to compile the most comprehensive
record yet of the brutal siege.
In a statement late Wednesday, Thompson and the committee's Republican vice
chairwoman, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, said the panel will meet next week to vote
on advancing criminal contempt charges against Meadows.
"Mr. Meadows's flawed lawsuit won't succeed at slowing down the Select
Committee's investigation or stopping us from getting the information we're
seeking," the two lawmakers said.
Committee leaders have said they intend to punish anyone who will not comply
with the probe, and the House has already voted to hold longtime Trump ally
Steve Bannon in contempt after he defied their subpoena. The Justice Department
later indicted Bannon on two counts.
In his letter to Terwilliger, Thompson summarized a handful of the thousands
of documents that Meadows has already provided, including communications that
involve White House efforts to overturn Joe Biden's election victory. Meadows
provided the committee last month with personal emails and backed-up data from
his personal cellphone, including text messages, Thompson said.
He said the documents Meadows turned over included an email dated Nov. 7,
2020 -- the day Biden was declared the White House winner -- that Thompson
described as "discussing the appointment of alternate slates of electors as
part of a 'direct and collateral attack' after the election." Thompson did not
say who sent the email or give further details.
Thompson also described an email that referenced a 38-page PowerPoint
presentation titled "Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN"
that Thompson said was intended to be shared on Capitol Hill. Thompson did not
further elaborate on the email but said it was dated Jan. 5, 2021, the day
before hundreds of Trump's supporters violently breached the Capitol and
interrupted the certification of Biden's victory.
A separate Nov. 6, 2020, text exchange between Meadows and an unidentified
member of Congress, Thompson wrote, was "apparently about appointing alternate
electors in certain states as part of a plan that the member acknowledged would
be 'highly controversial,' and to which Mr. Meadows apparently said, 'I love
Also included in the documents, according to Thompson: a Jan. 5, 2021, email
about having the National Guard on standby the next day; an "early 2021 text
message exchange" between Meadows and an organizer of the rally held the
morning of Jan. 6, when Trump told his supporters to "fight like hell"; and
"text messages about the need for the former president to issue a public
statement that could have stopped the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol."
Terwilliger did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the
letter or confirm the contents of the documents.
Meadows' decision to stop complying with the committee was a reversal after
he had initially agreed to the deposition and after Terwilliger said the
committee was open to allowing him to decline some questions based on Trump's
executive privilege claims.
Terwilliger then told the committee in a letter this week that a deposition
had become "untenable" because the committee "has no intention of respecting
boundaries" around questions that Trump claims are off-limits.
Trump has attempted to hinder much of the committee's work, including in an
ongoing court case, by arguing that Congress cannot obtain information about
his private White House conversations.
Terwilliger also told the committee that he learned over the weekend that
they had issued a subpoena to a third-party communications provider that he
said would include "intensely personal" information about Meadows.
"As a result of careful and deliberate consideration of these factors, we
now must decline the opportunity to appear voluntarily for a deposition,"
Terwilliger wrote in the Tuesday letter.
In his response, Thompson confirmed the subpoenas to a third party but said
it "does not impact Mr. Meadows's production of documents and text messages,
which are the areas we seek to develop during his deposition."
The committee in August issued a sweeping demand that telecommunications and
social media companies preserve the personal communications of hundreds of
people who may have been connected to the attack. But the panel did not ask the
companies to turn over the records at that time.
As the investigation has progressed, the committee has "sought data that
will help answer important questions" but does not include the content of the
communications, according to a committee aide who was not authorized to
publicly discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity. The
metadata requested includes dates and times of the communications, which could
include both emails and texts.