Committee Chairman Jan. 6 signs new letter to Mark Meadows as panel deliberates whether to pursue contempt of court

Asked by CNN about the content of the letter, Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said, “Essentially repeating what we’ve said so far. We need to answer these questions. I gave you a chance on a few occasions for you to respond and you didn’t.”

This letter will be the key to tracing the contact between Meadows and the commission, and crucial to building a final criminal referral report, should the committee choose to go that route.

Thompson said that part of the calculation in the meantime to pursue a criminal referral for Meadows was based on guidance from the panel’s attorneys.

“On the advice of our attorney, we’d like to be able to indicate that we have done our best to obtain this information,” Thompson said.

Thompson later added: “Without a lot of opportunity for everyone, we’re not going to rush to get there.

The committee has been weighing options on how to proceed with Meadows since tensions escalated when he failed to appear to be removed from office last week, setting up a potential showdown that could lead the panel to follow suit. pursue criminal referrals.

Although Thompson called the decision a “work in progress,” he was clear that engagement from Meadows did not meet the standards the committee needed and that if and when it pursued a criminal referral then the case will be “fine”. “

“We had contact afterwards with Meadows, but it didn’t provide the committee or the staff with any information from him. So we did the query, spoke to him, said. that this is what we want. We don’t get anything.” Thompson said. “He hasn’t answered any questions yet.”

What the committee wants to know about Meadows and his cell phone

One key question the committee said it wanted Meadows to answer was whether he used a personal cell phone for communication on January 6 and his text messages from that day. where.

“We have information that the phone may or may not be in his possession,” Thompson said. “The no longer active number he used. So we just want to know.”

When urged by CNN that the committee knew that information, whether it was from interviews or documents on file with the committee, Thompson would not elaborate and simply say, “That’s the committee’s information. .”

Prior to his expected removal from office last week, Meadows’ attorney, George J. Terwilliger III, issued a statement saying his client would not cooperate with the committee because the court has yet to make a decision. ruled on former President Donald Trump’s claims of executive privilege, noting “an acrimonious legal dispute with the committee.”

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Thompson and the panel’s Vice Chairman, Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, said that Meadows’ defying his subpoena would “force the Selection Committee to consider pursuing contempt or other charges.” other procedures for the enforcement of subpoenas.” But there are issues that need to be addressed that are unique to Meadows’ situation and could be more complicated than bringing a contempt charge against Steve Bannon, who appeared in federal court the following Monday. was indicted by a grand jury and is expected to be charged with two misdemeanors on Thursday.

Unlike Bannon, Meadows was an employee of the executive branch on January 6, making his claims of executive privilege potentially more substantial.

As for Thompson, however, if Meadows used a private phone on January 6, his claim of being protected by executive privilege is less certain.

“If he were in fact using a personal phone instead of a government phone while serving as chief of staff, that would limit his argument that he is protected,” Thompson said. .

Thompson, along with Cheney, also completely rejected the argument that Meadows could claim executive privileges.

“It is important to note that it is not unusual for the Selection Committee to seek the cooperation of a former senior administration official,” the pair said in a joint statement last week after Meadows. does not appear to depose. “Throughout the history of the United States, the White House has provided Congress with testimony and information when it is in the public interest. There can be no more compelling public interest than receiving answers about a meeting. attack our democracy.”

Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a member of the committee, also argued that the Biden administration’s unwillingness to assert the privilege made it all the more difficult for Bannon to claim such protection.

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Raskin told CNN: “Remember… The President of the United States is not asserting executive privilege over any of these documents, and that is almost certainly controlling and decisive in all of these documents. Specific case”.

“Executive privilege doesn’t even belong to the resident of the White House. It belongs to the president and the executive branch itself. Much less, it doesn’t belong to a former president trying to cover up. hide his participation in a coup attempt and a violent uprising against the government. So that would stretch the limits of executive privilege beyond any trust.”

Committee ‘still discussing’ how to handle Jeffrey Clark

Meadows is not the only high-priority target not fully cooperating with the committee, who are weighing how to proceed. Thompson told reporters Tuesday that the committee is “still discussing” next steps for former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, who was ousted earlier this month but was uncooperative.

At the time, Thompson and Cheney issued a strong statement that Clark had to change course or they would have to “take strong measures to hold him accountable.”

Thompson said of both Meadows and Clark, “those are the two main individuals we’re serving on the committee.”

When asked if there was a calculation behind who the committee would do first, Thompson said, “We don’t put them in dissection order. We’ll discuss the merits of each. Both are valuable.”

Challenge of the calendar

As the committee continued to consider how to handle each of these top-priority witnesses, Thompson acknowledged that the calendar was a logistical challenge.

“Our challenge is to get to grips with the legislative calendar,” Thompson said, pointing to key legislation that is taking precedence on the floor right now including President Biden’s Better Rebuilding Act and after the Thanksgiving break. Thanks, the deadline is next month to fund the government and expand the nation’s debt limit.

“So it was a matter of finding the space to put it in because we obviously had to go to the speaker, get the speaker’s approval, then we had to have the rules and finally the timing. on the floor,” he added.

And with members expected to stay in the city only until Friday before they return to their counties before Thanksgiving, Thompson is all but likely to move on Meadows or Clark this week because of the multi-step process. is a contemptuous introduction to criminals. require.

“If the goal is to try to get Building legislation back to being better this week, I just don’t think the calendar will allow that,” he said, referencing House Democrats’ plan to pass the bill. $1.9 trillion worth of social safety legislation as soon as this week.

More subpoenas and interviews to come

But as the controversies over criminal contempt referrals are in the balance, Thompson said he expects the committee to issue more subpoenas this week as it continues its investigation, though he did not say. clear the trajectory these warrants will target.

And the committee continued its work behind closed doors.

Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, who serves on the panel, said on CNN Tuesday night that the committee has now heard 200 witnesses, received nearly 25,000 documents and received more than 200 advice from its tip flow.


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