(WASHINGTON) — The House on Tuesday is expected to hold Mark Meadows, former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for his testimony from the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Meadows, a former House member, would be the first former lawmaker to be held in criminal contempt by Congress — and the first lawmaker held in contempt — since 1832.
The vote would refer the matter to the Justice Department to decide whether to bring charges against the North Carolina Republican. Meadows could face up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted.
Meadows turned over some 9,000 documents from his personal cell phones to the committee, including urgent text messages from Republican lawmakers imploring him to get Trump to something to stop the violence.
But he then reversed course and refused to appear under subpoena to answer questions about the records he provided.
During Monday’s committee meeting, before members voted unanimously to recommend Meadows be held in contempt, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the vice chair of the panel, quoted extensively from text messages sent to Meadows during the riot from Fox News hosts, GOP lawmakers and Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s eldest son.
Cheney said the messages left “no doubt” the White House “knew exactly what was happening” at the Capitol during the riot.
“He’s got to condemn [the riot] ASAP,” Trump Jr. told Meadows in a text message, according to Cheney, saying that Trump’s tweet about Capitol Police “is not enough.”
“I’m pushing it hard,” Meadows replied. “I agree.”
“We need an Oval Office address,” Trump Jr. said in a follow up message. “He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
“Please get him on tv,” Fox News host Brian Kilmeade wrote to Meadows. “Destroying everything you have accomplished.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., read aloud from text messages Meadows received from unnamed GOP lawmakers before and after the riot.
“Yesterday was a terrible day,” one wrote. “We tried everything we could in our objection to the 6 states. I’m sorry nothing worked.”
She quoted again from text messages Tuesday morning.
“It is really bad up here on the Hill,” one message read.
In another, an unnamed lawmaker texted Meadows: “Fix this now.”
“We need to question him about emails and texts he has given us without any claims of privilege,” Cheney said.
Commitee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told the committee that “only three people” of “over 300” have not cooperated with the committee. He shared that Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is among those scheduled to cooperate and speak to investigators.
“I have no great desire to be here seeking consideration of this contempt referral. Mr. Meadows was a colleague for more than seven years. But that doesn’t excuse his behavior. If anything, his time as a member of the House should make him more aware of the potential consequences of defying a congressional subpoena,” Thompson said.
Republicans for the most part defended Meadows and suggested the committee’s push to hold Meadows in contempt would squander any chance they had to secure his cooperation.
“Today they are destroying executive privilege,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said on the House floor. “It is a vote to put a good man in prison.”
In a statement Tuesday, Meadows attorney George Terwilliger said his client “never stopped cooperating” with the panel. “What message does that duplicity send to him as well as to others who might be inclined to consider cooperating in good faith to the extent possible?”
Democrats and Republicans aligned with the committee blasted Meadows’ argument, pointing to the fact that he published a memoir detailing conversations with Trump around Jan. 6.
“This is a witness who is refusing to comply with the law,” Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said. “But look at his book and you get more information than our committee did.”
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