The House of Representatives panel investigating the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol is threatening to hold Mark Meadows in contempt after former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff said he would not appear for a deposition.
“Tomorrow’s deposition, which was scheduled at Mr. Meadows’s request, will go forward as planned. If indeed Mr. Meadows refuses to appear, the select committee will be left no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the panel’s chairman, and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), its vice chair, said in a joint statement.
Meadows through a lawyer earlier in the day informed Thompson and Cheney he would not appear for a deposition.
Meadows planned to appear voluntarily to answer questions about non-privileged matters, the lawyer, George Terwilliger III, said in a letter.
But he took offense to the panel issuing subpoenas for information from third parties, in addition to Thompson’s recent assertion that one asserting their Fifth Amendment rights was tantamount to an admission of guilt.
“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.
“It is well-established that Congress’s subpoena authority is limited to the pursuit of a legitimate legislative purpose. Congress has no authority to conduct law enforcement investigations or free-standing ‘fact finding’ missions. Even where there is a legislative purpose, requests that implicate the separation of powers by targeting current or former executive officials must be narrowly tailored. Yet again, with the breadth of its subpoenas and its pugnacious approach, the Select Committee has made clear that it does not intend to respect these important constitutional limits,” he added.
Meadows was a member of Congress before becoming Trump’s chief of staff.
Terwilliger has not returned requests for comment.
The lawyer said his client has a responsibility to protect executive privilege. He also said Meadows would answer written questions.
Meadows recently penned a book about his time in the Trump administration.
Thompson and Cheney said the refusal to cooperate came “despite his apparent willingness to provide details about the facts and circumstances surrounding the Jan. 6 attack, including conversations with President Trump, in the book he is now promoting and selling.”
They want to hear from him regarding records he turned over to the committee and about records he has not that are stored on his phone and email accounts.
Meadows failed to adhere to the Presidential Records Act by withholding the records, they said.
Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser, was charged with contempt of Congress after refusing to cooperate with the panel.
The committee has faced increasing criticism from many Republicans. It was formed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) after the Senate GOP blocked a bill that would have approved a commission to probe Jan. 6. Pelosi refused to seat members picked by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and chose Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), both known for their fervent opposition to Trump, as the only Republican members.
The panel has struggled at times with its accuracy. Besides the misleading claim about the Fifth Amendment, it sent out a subpoena with misinformation, but still hasn’t alerted the public despite acknowledging as much in private.