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Ex-Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Subpoenaed in January 6 Probe

Experts say Meadows is expected to assert executive privilege but may face federal criminal charges instead.

Former Rep. Mark Meadows speaks during a forum on House and GOP Conference rules for the 118th Congress, at the FreedomWorks office in Washington, D.C., on November 14, 2022.

Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has been subpoenaed by special counsel Jack Smith’s team in connection to his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, according to CNN.

Meadows was served with a subpoena seeking documents and testimony related to Jan. 6 sometime last month, a source told the network. Smith also recently subpoenaed former Vice President Mike Pence.

Smith is investigating former President Donald Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack as well as his handling of classified documents after leaving office. Though the subpoena is related to Jan. 6, prosecutors may also be interested in interviewing Meadows in connection with the documents case since he was one of Trump’s designees to the National Archives and was involved in discussions about turning over government documents that were in the former president’s possession.

Meadows was on the infamous phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which the former president demanded officials “find” enough votes to overturn his loss in the state. Meadows also visited the site of the state’s election audit.

Meadows repeatedly pushed the Justice Department to investigate fringe voter fraud allegations and was involved in numerous discussions surrounding Trump’s efforts to block the certification of his loss on Jan. 6, 2021.

The subpoena could prompt a legal battle between Meadows and the Justice Department over executive privilege. Meadows previously cited executive privilege to fight a subpoena from a grand jury in Georgia’s Fulton County investigating the post-election efforts. A judge ultimately ordered Meadows to testify because he is “material and necessary to the investigation.”

The executive privilege argument is a “complete loser, frivolous, and quick to be rejected,” predicted Ryan Goodman, a professor at the New York University School of Law.

“The court already ruled against senior Trump White House officials who tried this in fall 2022,” he tweeted, adding that the Supreme Court also previously rejected executive privilege claims in Trump’s 2022 bid to block National Archives records from going to the House Jan. 6 committee and against former President Richard Nixon in the Watergate case.

“Time to face the music and feel the heat,” tweeted former U.S. attorney Harry Litman, noting that Meadows is “arguably second in culpability” only to Trump.

Litman predicted that Meadows may push for immunity from the DOJ but risks facing criminal charges.

“Look for Meadows to hold out for immunity. But if his culpability is as extensive as it appears, DOJ would be very reticent. They would do it only if it were the only way to get to Trump,” Litman wrote.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who served on special counsel Bob Mueller’s team, also predicted that Meadows’ executive privilege claim would fail, only leaving him with the option of testifying or invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

“Then Jack Smith must decide if he has enough to indict or whether he immunizes him in spite of his high-level… position and criminal liability,” Weissmann tweeted.

Pence has also said he plans to challenge his subpoena from Smith, arguing that since he was acting as president of the Senate on Jan. 6, it is “unconstitutional” for the DOJ to subpoena him under the “speech or debate” clause, which protects members of Congress.

Pence said Wednesday that he also expects Trump to try to assert executive privilege to block his testimony.

“That’s not my fight. My fight is on the separation of powers,” Pence said.

Legal experts roundly predicted that Pence’s attempt to fight the subpoena would fail as well, though it could delay proceedings.

“It’s not going to work because there is no absolute speech or debate immunity for a vice president or anyone else from showing up and answering the kinds of questions we have here,” attorney Norm Eisen, who served as Democrats’ co-counsel in Trump’s first impeachment, told CNN. “There is no blanket immunity of this kind for a vice president under the Speech or Debate Clause. This will just prolong this investigation,” he added.

Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig said the latest moves are likely to add to the delays in the investigation while the subpoenas are being litigated and criticized Attorney General Merrick Garland for slow-walking the probe before he appointed Smith last year.

“Garland couldn’t have subpoenaed Mike Pence and Mark Meadows in, say, late 2021… why, exactly?” Honig tweeted. “Jack Smith has subpoenaed both, within weeks of starting. But he’s already way behind because of Garland’s delay.”

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