Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Meadows in contempt

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack voted Monday to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress over his refusal to cooperate with the probe, sending another warning to potential holdouts that noncompliance could lead to criminal charges.

The resolution now moves to the full House, which is expected to pass it on Tuesday, largely along party lines. That would make Meadows the second confidant of former President Trump to be sanctioned by the Democrat-controlled House for defying a subpoena, after Steve Bannon was held in contempt in October.

Yet the contempt vote, while highly unusual on Capitol Hill, was upstaged by new revelations that Trump’s eldest son and a trio of conservative Fox News superstars — Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade — had all pleaded with Meadows during the Capitol attack to convince the president to intervene to stop the violence. It was a step Trump would not take for more than three hours, and leaders of the select committee seem to be homing in on that detail. 

"The violence was evident to all; it was covered in real time, by almost every news channel. But for 187 minutes, President Trump refused to act when action by our president was required, essential and indeed compelled by his oath to our Constitution," said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the investigative panel. 

Meadows had unique access to the planning and strategy discussions surrounding the efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the election results and prevent Joe Biden from taking power. A report released Sunday by Congress’s investigative committee revealed that Meadows, a former North Carolina lawmaker and Freedom Caucus founder, played a central role in the organization of efforts to defy the will of voters and keep Trump in office.

That campaign culminated in the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, where thousands of Trump supporters, roused by Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, marched on the Capitol in an effort to block Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. Seven people died in connection to the rampage, and roughly 140 police officers were injured while sparring with the rioters. 

The select committee was formed to examine the events surrounding the attack, including the role that Trump and his White House team might have played in orchestrating it. And while Meadows has provided investigators with thousands of pages of documents surrounding Jan. 6, he has refused to testify before the panel to discuss them, even after he was subpoenaed. It was that stonewalling that led to Monday’s contempt vote. 

“It comes down to this: Mr. Meadows started by doing the right thing: cooperating. He handed over records that he didn’t try to shield behind some excuse. But in an investigation like ours, that’s just the first step. When the records raise questions, like these most certainly do, you have to come in and answer those questions,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the select committee. “He changed his mind, and told us to pound sand. He didn’t even show up.”

Despite all the media attention on Bannon, Meadows and others refusing to participate in the probe, Thompson noted that a vast majority of witnesses to the events of Jan. 6 are cooperating with the panel. Thompson said this week alone, a dozen more witnesses will testify, putting the total number “well north” of 300. The panel has also received roughly 30,000 documents related to the attack, he added, while fielding 250 “substantive tips” from the public on the committee’s online tip line. 

"Day to day we're getting a clearer picture of what happened,” he said. 

Meadows had initially refused to cooperate in the investigation, then changed course and provided investigators with roughly 9,000 pages of texts, emails and other communications he had on and around Jan. 6.  

In a 51-page report released Sunday by the select committee, investigators detailed the types of questions they would have asked Meadows had he appeared before them.

Specifically, investigators would have asked how he determined when to use his personal and official mobile device to send text messages and make phone calls; why he sent emails to Justice Department leaders from Dec. 29 to Jan. 1 encouraging probes into claims of voter fraud that had been rejected by federal investigators and the courts; and about a Jan. 5 email in which Meadows stated the National Guard would be present at the Capitol  the next day to ‘‘protect pro Trump people.”

Committee investigators said they also would have asked Meadows about statements in his new book, including a passage where he says, ‘‘It didn’t surprise me that our many referrals to the Department of Justice were not seriously investigated. I never believed they would, given the track record of that Department in President Trump’s first term.”

Meadows’s willingness to talk to the media about Jan. 6 while he attempts to sell his book — but not the investigators charged with getting to the bottom of the attack — has only fueled the appetite of Trump’s critics to hold the former chief of staff in contempt. 

"Mark Meadows has committed a crime,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), another Republican on the select committee. “In this case a premeditated one."

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