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Meadows defies Jan. 6 committee’s subpoena, faces criminal contempt charges

Claiming executive privilege, the former Trump chief of staff did not appear before the House committee that has threatened to charge him with contempt.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows defied a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by failing to appear for a deposition before the committee Friday morning, opening up the former Trump staffer to criminal contempt charges.

The panel gave Meadows a Friday deadline to appear before its members and answer questions related to the Jan. 6 rally and insurrection that laid siege to the nation's capital. But Meadows failed to appear, claiming executive privilege and following the lead of former President Donald Trump whose claims of privilege over documents related to the attack have embroiled the committee in multiple legal fights.

“Legal disputes are appropriately resolved by courts,” said Meadows’ lawyer, George Terwilliger, in a statement obtained by The Associated Press Friday morning. “It would be irresponsible for Mr. Meadows to prematurely resolve that dispute by voluntarily waiving privileges that are at the heart of those legal issues.”

Meadows was with Trump during most of the attack on the Capitol and his testimony could provide critical insight into Trump's behavior and conversations on the day of the riot, information the committee has been honing in on as they try to piece together the events of Jan. 6.

In a September announcement of its decision to subpoena Meadows, the committee noted Meadows' continued dedication to overturning the election during the last days of the Trump administration and cited reporting from ProPublica that Meadows had communicated with organizers of the Jan. 6 rally.

The White House said in a statement earlier this week that President Joe Biden would waive any executive privilege that would prevent Meadows' testimony. Biden has also waived many of Trump's claims of privilege over documents and testimony.

"President Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents," a letter from the president's counsel said.

Earlier this week, a federal judge rejected a lawsuit by Trump aiming to block the National Archives from turning over documents to the committee.

"His position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power 'exists in perpetuity,’” U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutakn wrote in her ruling. "But presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.”

Trump appealed the decision and the D.C. Circuit temporarily halted the turnover of documents on Thursday pending a review of the case.

Despite open defiance from Trump and many members of his administration, the panel has interviewed more than 150 witnesses and subpoenaed former White House aides and organizers of the rally, some of whom have complied with the demands.

Meadows' failure to appear before the committee may lead to contempt charges against him.

"Such willful noncompliance with the subpoena would force the Select Committee to consider invoking the
contempt of Congress procedure," Congressman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi and the chairman of the Jan. 6 committee, wrote in a letter to Meadows' attorney on Thursday.

In order to be held in contempt, the House of Representatives would have to vote on the matter and then leave it up to the Department of Justice to dole out potential consequences.

If Meadows is charged, he would be the second witness and member of the Trump administration to be held in contempt. Former White House strategist Steve Bannon was held in contempt last month after refusing to comply with the committee's subpoena for questioning.

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