Lawmakers investigating the assault on the US Capitol prepared Monday to vote on recommending criminal contempt charges against Donald Trump's former chief of staff for refusing to testify.
Mark Meadows has made clear he has no intention of complying with a subpoena to appear before the cross-party January 6 congressional select committee and missed a scheduled deposition for the second time last week.
"Mr. Meadows's failure to appear for deposition testimony in the face of this clear advisement and warning by the chairman, and after being given a second chance to cooperate with the select committee, constitutes a willful failure to comply with the subpoena," the committee said.
The panel is investigating Trump's efforts to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election through an authoritarian campaign that led to the deadly Capitol riot -- and the help he got from Meadows.
Trump's fourth and final White House chief of staff told the panel he would withhold testimony until his former boss's claim of "executive privilege," which allows presidents to keep certain conversations with aides secret, has been resolved.
Investigators maintain Meadows has undermined any right to refuse testimony as the ultra-conservative former congressman is promoting a memoir published last week that includes detailed accounts of January 6 and his conversations with Trump.
An appeals court rejected Trump's effort last week, agreeing with a lower court ruling that the defeated ex-president had provided no reason why his communications with former aides should be withheld. He was given two weeks to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
Meadows was Trump's most senior aide at the time of the riot and was reportedly with the then-president in the White House as the rioters breached the Capitol.
The committee says Meadows "is uniquely situated to provide key information, having straddled an official role in the White House and unofficial role related to Mr. Trump's reelection campaign."
Before saying he was no longer willing to cooperate, Meadows voluntarily gave the committee 6,600 pages of records taken from personal email accounts and about 2,000 text messages.
'Unwise, unjust and unfair'
The probe released a 51-page document Sunday describing some of that communication, including a January 5 email from Meadows telling an unidentified person the National Guard was on standby to "protect pro Trump people."
The committee will green-light the contempt citation Monday evening and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is expected to vote Tuesday to refer Meadows to the Justice Department to consider charges.
A timetable for that decision has yet to be revealed. If convicted, Meadows could face a six-month prison term for each contempt charge, but more likely a fine.
Accusing the select committee of abusing its powers, Meadows sued its nine members and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week, asking a federal court to block enforcement of the subpoenas issued to him and to Verizon for his phone records.
His lawyer George Terwilliger wrote to the panel on Monday to denounce the proposed prosecution as "manifestly unwise, unjust and unfair."
Thousands of Trump's supporters, many associated with ultra-nationalist and white supremacist groups, stormed the Capitol 11 months ago in an effort to overturn President Joe Biden's election victory.
They had been incited by Trump, whose fiery speech earlier that day falsely claiming election fraud and calling on supporters to march on the Capitol and "fight like hell" was the culmination of months of baseless claims about a contest he lost fairly to Biden.
The House voted to recommend charges against ex-White House strategist and right-wing rabble rouser Steve Bannon in October. He faces trial in July on two counts of contempt.
© 2021 AFP