Jan.6 committee loses patience with former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows
Meadows was first subpoenaed over a month ago, and since then the committee has said it has “engaged” in negotiations over the terms of his handing over of documents and his appearance for a deposition.
But weeks after the committee granted Meadows a “short” but indefinite postponement of the initial subpoena deadline, members are growing increasingly frustrated and wondering when and how to step up the pressure.
“Our patience is not unlimited and the engagement must become cooperation very soon,” a select committee source told CNN, calling Meadows a “key witness” in the investigation. “As we have already made clear, anyone who tries to block our efforts will suffer the consequences.”
Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, who chairs the committee and is responsible for assessing the considerations of all members, told CNN on Wednesday that the panel was not yet at the point where it should bring the issue of Meadows’ compliance to the front. courts.
But Thompson added: “If and when the staff tell us this is not going anywhere, the committee will not hesitate to make the references.”
Meadows’ attorney George Terwilliger and his former chief of staff Ben Williamson both declined to comment.
The committee road with Meadows is inherently more complicated than it was with Bannon, because as Trump’s chief of staff, Meadows could enjoy legitimate protections of executive privilege.
So far, the Biden administration has shown considerable support for the House investigation – refusing to assert its privilege over Bannon and several bundles of documents, leaving many committee members encouraged that the White House will not provide comprehensive protection to Meadows.
Panel members are weighing how much time to give Meadows before his non-compliance jeopardizes their investigation.
A source with intimate knowledge of the negotiations told CNN it was becoming “increasingly clear” that Meadows had “no real intention” to provide documents or testimony to the committee.
Several committee members have said in recent days that criminal contempt charges are on the table for any witness – including Meadows – who defies a subpoena.
“I know that if we come to the conclusion that they are not acting in good faith and if they do not show up, we will hold them in criminal contempt like we did with Mr. Bannon,” said the representative. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, told reporters last week when asked about Meadows.
If the committee instituted a new subpoena deadline for Meadows, it could create an impasse that could escalate into a legal battle.
Unlike Meadows, Bannon never engaged with the committee. He did not show up on the day his subpoena required it, and his lawyer sent a letter to the committee saying he would not cooperate until the committee reached an agreement with Trump on what was inside information – or that a court ruled on the matter.
Some committee members expect Meadows to ultimately refuse to comply as well, and both sides have signaled they are preparing to plead, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Bannon, now a podcast host, had been fired from his role in the White House years before the Jan.6 uprising, but has continued to support Trump and has worked with “Stop the Steal” activists who are agitating for overturn the 2020 election results.
In letters to the National Archives, White House attorney Dana Remus has repeatedly stated that the White House believes the insurgency and the events surrounding it to be “unique and extraordinary” and that Biden has determined that an “assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interest.” the United States.”
Biden’s legal advisers have been very clear that they address questions of privilege raised by the January 6 inquiries on a case-by-case basis.
If Biden’s White House allows full access to Meadows’ testimony and documents, it could set a precedent and invite a GOP-led investigation into his administration if Republicans take control of one or both houses of Congress l ‘next year.
And before that, any attempt to protect parts of Congress’ Meadows account could invite a backlash from the left and Democratic allies on Capitol Hill.
The White House office of counsel has already started discussing with the Justice Department’s legal counsel office how executive privilege might apply to Meadows, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
Just consulting OLC does not mean the White House will grant Meadows privilege protections. The White House has already consulted OLC in this investigation and has always chosen not to assert privilege.
CNN’s Melanie Zanona and Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.