Mark Meadows faces contempt vote in House
Members of the House of Representatives selection committee January 6 attack on the US Capitol demonstrated their willingness to pursue criminal contempt referrals against witnesses who refused to comply with the panel’s subpoena.
But what does that mean? Disdain criminals is one of three options the congressional committee could pursue to enforce the subpoena, along with civil and inherent contempt.
President Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows is the latest official to face as a recommendation from the board of directors. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, said that Meadows left the committee with “no choice but to proceed with contempt proceedings” after he stopped cooperating with the committee.
Once a criminal contempt recommendation is cleared by the House’s selection committee, that committee will go to the full House for a vote. If that vote is successful, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirms the report to the US attorney for the District of Columbia.
By law, the certificate then requires the U.S. attorney to “bring the matter to a grand jury to hear his actions,” but the Justice Department will also make its own prosecution decisions.
Any individual found to have acted in contempt of Congress will be charged with a crime punishable by a fine and imprisonment of one to 12 months. But the process is rarely called out and rarely leads to a prison sentence.
As serious as an introduction to criminal contempt, the House’s choice to use the Department of Justice may be more of a warning than a solution. Holding a person in criminal contempt through prosecution can take years, and historical contempt criminal cases have been derailed by appeal and acquittal.
The commission approved a crime report against Trump ally Steve Bannon in October after he refused to comply with a subpoena deadline.
Read more about criminal contempt and how it compares to civil contempt and inherent contempt.
CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Ryan Nobles, Annie Grayer, Whitney Wild and Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.