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Friday, January 21, 2022

Panel threatens contempt vote after Meadows withdraws on January 6

by Eric Tucker and Marie Claire Jalonik

WASHINGTON (AP) – Leaders of the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol uprising have threatened to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress, as his lawyer said Tuesday. was that his clients would stop cooperating with the panel.

In a sudden reversal, Meadows Attorney George Terwilliger said in a letter that a statement would be “untenable” because the January 6 panel “has no intention of respecting boundaries” in relation to questions that former President Donald Trump claimed. that they are out of bounds because executive privileges. Terwilliger also said he learned over the weekend that the committee had issued a subpoena to a third-party communications provider that he said would contain “deeply personal” information.

“As a result of careful and deliberate consideration of these factors, we must now voluntarily decline the opportunity to appear for a statement,” Terwilliger wrote in the letter.

The Democratic chairman of the committee, Mississippi Representative Benny Thompson, and the Republican vice president, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney said in a statement that she would have “no choice” but to vote to recommend the contempt charges against Meadows if she does not show the closed-door statement as scheduled earlier on Wednesday.

“Yesterday’s statement, which was set at the request of Mr. Meadows, will proceed as planned,” Thompson and Cheney said in a statement.

Meadows’ decision not to cooperate comes as a setback for the committee, as lawmakers were hoping to interview Trump’s top White House aide about Trump’s actions during the violent attack by his supporters and further. He also hoped to use Meadows as an example for other witnesses who may be considering not cooperating because Trump has filed legal challenges to block the panel’s work.

Lawmakers on the committee have criticized Meadows’ reluctance to testify, citing privilege concerns, while he is also releasing a book this week detailing his work inside the White House. Thompson and Cheney said they also have questions about the documents Meadows has already submitted to the panel.

“Even as we sue over issues of privilege, the selection committee still has many questions regarding the record of Mr Meadows, which they have submitted to the committee, with no claim to privilege , which includes real-time communication with multiple individuals as the events of January 6 unfolded,” he said in the statement.

Thompson and Cheney said the panel also wants to talk to Meadows about “official records stored in his personal phone and email accounts,” which could be submitted to the committee by the National Archives in the coming weeks. Trump has sued to block the release of those records, and the case is currently pending in the US Court of Appeals.

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The two committee leaders did not comment on Terwilliger’s claim about summons to third-party communications providers. The committee issued a broad demand in August that telecommunications and social media companies protect the personal communications of hundreds of people who may have been linked to the attack, but did not ask the companies to turn to records at the time.

Terwilliger said in a statement last week that he was continuing to work with the committee and its staff on a possible accommodation that would not require Meadows to waive the executive privileges claimed by Trump or “long-term” Seize the ongoing situation that senior White House aides can’t, be forced to testify” before Congress.

“We appreciate the openness of the selection committee to receive voluntary feedback on non-privileged subjects,” he said then.

Thompson then said the panel would “continue to assess their degree of compliance” and would take action against Meadows or any other witnesses who did not comply, including voting to recommend charges of contempt. The House has already voted to hold longtime Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt, and the Justice Department has indicted Bannon on two counts.

In preventing cooperation, Terwilliger cited Thompson’s comments that he wrongly accused witnesses who invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. A separate witness, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, has said he would invoke those Fifth Amendment rights, leading the committee to question whether he would directly admit that his answers could convict him.

Thompson said last week that Clark’s lawyer had offered Clark “no specific grounds” for insisting on a fifth and that he saw it as a “last attempt to delay the selection committee proceedings”, but He said the members would listen to Clark. The committee has already voted to recommend charges of contempt for Clark, and Thompson has said that if the panel is not satisfied with her compliance in a second statement on December 16, she will proceed with a House vote. Will grow.

In his new book released Tuesday, Meadows revealed that Trump received a positive COVID-19 test ahead of the presidential debate. He also revealed that when Trump was later hospitalized with COVID, he was far more ill than at the White House at the time.

Trump – who told his supporters to “fight like hell” before hundreds of his supporters barged into the Capitol and stalled the presidential election count – attempted to obstruct the committee’s work, including the ongoing Court cases are also involved, arguing that Congress cannot obtain information about his private White House conversations.

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Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

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