Former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows decided abruptly to withdraw his cooperation with the Jan. 6 House Select Committee on Tuesday, after working with the committee and providing evidence.
Meadows said that they decided to withdraw after it was discovered the House Committee subpoenaed phone records, which is generally done to understand the questions to ask the witness to clarify.
The Guardian's congressional reporter, Hugo Lowell, tweeted that chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) revealed a 38-page PowerPoint presentation titled "Options for 6 JAN." At the same time, the committee also discovered "certain text messages from his personal cellphone he relinquished after Jan. 6."
According to Thompson's statement Tuesday, Meadows agreed to waive executive privilege on the PowerPoint and the text messages.
In the letter to Meadows' lawyer, Thompson explained that on Nov. 26, 2021, "Mr. Meadows provided to the Select Committee certain documents that you obtained from Mr. Meadows' personal email account and determined were responsive to the Select Committee's subpoena. In doing so, you also provided a privilege log indicating that you withheld several hundred additional documents from Mr. Meadows' personal email account based on claims of executive, attorney-client, or other privilege. Despite your very broad claims of privilege, Mr. Meadows has also produced documents that you apparently agree are relevant and not protected by any privilege at all. Those documents include: a Nov. 7, 2020, email discussing the appointment of alternate slates of electors as part of a 'direct and collateral attack' after the election; a Jan. 5 2021, email regarding a 38-page PowerPoint briefing titled "Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN" that was to be provided 'on the hill'; and among others, a Jan. 5 2021, email about having the National Guard on standby."
The letter goes on to say that Meadows held back over 1,000 text messages from his cell phone that he handed over to his cell phone provider after Jan. 6, 2021.
"The text messages you did produce include a Nov. 6, 2020, text exchange with a Member of Congress 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 it'; an early Jan. 2021 text message exchange between Mr. Meadows and an organizer of the Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse' 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," the letter also says.
The letter goes on to say that Meadows' recent claims that the committee doesn't respect former President Donald Trump's privilege is outright false.
"Mr. Meadows' refusal to appear is motivated by, among other things, the documents the Select Committee staff provided to you in advance, pursuant to your request for an accommodation. You go on to suggest that those documents somehow indicate that the "Select Committee has no intention of respecting boundaries concerning Executive Privilege." That assertion runs counter to the stated purpose of the Dec. 8, 2021, deposition, which was to give Mr. Meadows a chance to answer the Select Committee's questions or assert and articulate a specific privilege he believes protects that information from disclosure," the letter says.
The letter explains to Meadows lawyer that they tried to identify the areas of inquiry that Meadows believed were protected but neither he nor his lawyers could provide that information. So, Thompson said that he would ask Meadows about those claims on a "question-by-question basis."
Thompson wrote, "That is not a lack of respect for the boundaries of executive privilege but rather an appreciation for the proper process for asserting any protective privilege."
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“Even as we litigate privilege issues, the Select Committee has numerous questions for Mr. Meadows about records he has turned over to the Committee with no claim of privilege, which includes real-time communications with many individuals as the events of January 6th unfolded. We also need to hear from him about voluminous official records stored in his personal phone and email accounts, which were required to be turned over to the National Archives in accordance with the Presidential Records Act," said Thompson's statement.
Thompson also said that if Meadows is claiming executive privilege on emails and text messages from his personal cell phone and personal email, then it means he didn't comply with the Presidential Records Act, which mandates that all records be turned over regardless of their privilege level. Those records would then be controlled by the National Archives. It's the same complaint that Republicans had about Hillary Clinton's personal email server, they said should have been turned over to investigators.
The law, passed in 1978, "Codifies the process by which former and incumbent Presidents conduct reviews for executive privilege prior to [the] public release of records by NARA (which had formerly been governed by Executive order 13489).
This is one of many reasons that the committee explained it has no choice but to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress. He appears to be picking and choosing which things on which he'll wave executive privilege.
Read the full letter below:
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NEW letter from Jan. 6 Committee chair Bennie Thompson to Mark Meadows\u2019 lawyer: \u201cThere is no legitimate legal basis for Mr. Meadows to refuse to cooperate with the Select Committee and answer questions about the documents he produced\u2026\u201dpic.twitter.com/isKIAa9E3u— Daniel Strauss (@Daniel Strauss) 1638975881
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