Eight days after former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows stopped working with the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol riot, representatives voted 222 to 208 to hold the former Trump administration figure in criminal contempt for his refusal to cooperate.
“In an investigation like ours, when you produce records, you are expected to come in and answer questions about those records,” said committee chairman Bennie Thompson. “But that’s not what he did. He told us the day before his deposition — the same day his book was published — that he would no longer cooperate with our investigation, and that he wasn’t coming in to be interviewed.”
The vote now sends Meadows’s case to the Justice Department, which will determine whether or not to prosecute him on the contempt charge. Though the House held a similar measure in October to hold Steve Bannon in contempt — with a trial beginning in July — the vote on former North Carolina representative Meadows’s refusal to cooperate was a historic act. The last time the House held a former member in criminal contempt was when former Tennessee representative Sam Houston was convicted in a vote in 1832 after beating another member with a cane. Two Republicans, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, joined Democrats in the vote; both were expected to do so, as they are members of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
Meadows’s attorneys have argued that their client actually never “stopped cooperating” with the committee, requesting a court ruling to determine if Donald Trump does in fact enjoy executive privilege over material subpoenaed by the committee, as he has claimed. “I’ve tried to share non-privileged information,” Meadows said on Fox News on Monday night, shortly after the Select Committee recommended to hold the contempt vote. “But truly the executive privilege that Donald Trump has claimed is his to waive. It’s not mine to waive.” In a 51-page report delivered on Monday, the committee determined that Meadows did not have a valid claim of executive privilege and that he also refused to answer questions “regarding even clearly non-privileged information.”
Meadows’s limited cooperation did provide the committee with some blockbuster details of the administration’s effort to stop the electoral vote count — and the efforts of administration allies to try and stop the Capitol riot itself. According to documents handed over to the House committee, in the run-up to the insurrection Meadows spoke up to ten times with a retired U.S. Army colonel named Philip Waldron, who distributed a PowerPoint presentation proposing ways Donald Trump could stay in office — including recommendations on how to declare a national security emergency and how to require National Guard troops and U.S. Marshals to “secure” paper ballots. Once Trump supporters breached the Capitol on January 6, Fox News hosts and Donald Trump Jr. texted the former chief of staff to convince the president to act: “This is hurting all of us,” Laura Ingraham wrote.