The United States House of Representatives formally voted on Tuesday to find ex-president Donald Trump’s former chief of staff in contempt of Congress for his refusal to cooperate with the select House committee investigating the January 6 breach of the Capitol building.
The House voted mostly along partisan lines, with two Republicans, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) joining Democrats to vote in favor of advancing the contempt charges against Mark Meadows. Cheney and Kinzinger are members of the January 6 commission.
The measure will now be forwarded to the Department of Justice (DOJ), which will make the final decision on whether to pursue criminal charges against Meadows. If convicted, Trump’s former chief of staff faces up to a year in prison and a fine up to $100,000.
Meadows, who at various times during the past few months has been inconsistent in cooperating with the commission’s work, refused to give additional depositions regarding his knowledge of Trump’s plans and actions regarding the January 6 Capitol attack. Meadows argued such actions would violate Trump’s executive privilege rights — though many legal experts agree, as a former president, his rights have been curtailed.
Indeed, in October, President Joe Biden formally rejected Trump’s claims of executive privilege, arguing that the commission had made a reasonable request for documents from Trump’s final weeks in office relating to their inquiry. The matter is currently being litigated in federal courts, although an appeals court recently rejected Trump’s claims.
Meadows’s claims about Trump’s privilege rights are also doubtful for another reason: Many of the questions the commission has for Trump’s former chief of staff have to do with documents he’s already shared with them, and thus would be inapplicable to executive privilege claims.
“Even if privileges were applicable to some aspects of Mr. Meadows’s testimony, he was required to appear before the Select Committee for his deposition, answer any questions concerning non-privileged information, and assert any such privilege on a question-by-question basis,” the commission wrote in its resolution to find him in contempt of Congress.
The commission wants to discuss several issues relating to documents that Meadows has submitted to them, including an email he wrote the day before the Capitol attack which said the National Guard had been activated in D.C. in order to “protect pro Trump people.” The commission also wants Meadows to testify about his role in a scheme to recognize “alternative” electors in the certification of the Electoral College, in order to help Trump attain an illegitimate win in last year’s 2020 presidential election.
Commission members also want to know about recently revealed text messages that Meadows sent and received on the day of the attack. Meadows had communicated with various politicians, conservative media personalities and Trump’s own family members, who had pleaded with Meadows to convince the former president to demobilize and condemn his mob of loyalists.
Some commission members, including Cheney, have suggested that the former president, in failing to act sooner on that day, could himself be charged for interfering in Congress’s official duties on January 6.
“These non-privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes,” Cheney said on Tuesday. “And Mr. Meadows’s testimony will bear on another key question before this committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s proceedings?”