Back in the day, by which we mean just over a week ago, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was cooperating with the January 6 committee, and its investigation of the events before, during, and after the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Now, Meadows is not only refusing to appear for a deposition—a move that could land him in criminal contempt—he’s suing the committee. What changed? For one thing, Donald Trump is reportedly extremely angry with Meadows over the ex-chief of staff’s new book, and it would appear the guy is trying his hardest to get back into Trump’s good graces. For another, the committee apparently made clear they want all of Meadows’s relevant communications, not just the documents he voluntarily turned over, and for some reason, Meadows would prefer those never see the light of day.
So now, this is happening. Per CNN:
And while that already sounds pretty damning on its own, it seems like there could be even more not-great exchanges Meadows doesn’t want investigators to get its hands on. According to The New York Times, Meadows told the committee that, conveniently, he had already turned in the cell phone he used on January 6 to his service provider, and was therefore withholding approximately 1,000 text messages connected to the device. Per the Times, the House panel recently sent “a flurry of subpoenas to telecommunications companies seeking the data of dozens of individuals, including Mr. Meadows, prompting his lawyer to object to a request he said sought ‘intensely personal communications’ with no relevance to any legitimate investigation.” (Incidentally, the subpoenas do not actually seek the content of any communications, only the dates and times of when calls and messages took place, a committee aide told the Times.)
Meadows’s suit comes on the heels of the news that the committee will move forward with a criminal contempt referral against him for refusing to appear for a scheduled deposition. “There is no legitimate legal basis for Mr. Meadows to refuse to cooperate with the select committee and answer questions about the documents he produced, the personal devices and accounts he used, the events he wrote about in his newly released book and, among other things, his other public statements.… The select committee is left with no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution,” committee chair Bennie Thompson wrote in a letter to Meadows’s lawyer.
While the panel has not announced a date for a vote on a contempt referral, it is all but certain that it will be approved by both the committee and the House, making a formal recommendation to the Justice Department to prosecute, according to the Times. In October, the House voted to recommend charges against Steve Bannon for refusal to cooperate, and the DOJ announced his indictment in November. On Tuesday, a judge set a ridiculously far-off trial date of July 18 for Bannon, putting virtually zero pressure on him in the meantime to cooperate.