WASHINGTON – Mark Meadows, former White House chief of staff under President Donald Trump, has reached an agreement with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to provide documents and under oath of interrogation, the commission said on Tuesday. cancellation for an important witness in an investigation.
The change in position to Meadows, who had previously refused to cooperate with the committee under the Trump directive, came when the commission was ready to seek criminal contempt for congressional charges against a second witness who challenged one of his subpoenas. The move marked a turnaround after weeks of private disputes between the former chief of staff and a House committee over whether and to what extent he would be involved in the investigation.
Meadows, a former Republican congressman from North Carolina, is a senior White House official who contributed in any way to the investigation.
“Mr. Meadows liaises with the elected committee through his attorney,” Rep. Benny Thompson, Commissioner Rep. Benny Thompson, said in a statement.
Thompson indicated that he refrains from judging whether Meadows was willing to cooperate sufficiently, adding: “The committee will continue to assess his compliance with our subpoena after testifying.”
Meadows’s attorney, George J. Terwilliger III, suggested that there are severe restrictions on his client’s willingness to participate in the investigation.
“As we have done from the beginning, we continue to work with the elected committee and its staff to see if we can reach an agreement that does not require Meadows to relinquish executive privileges or relinquish a long-standing position that senior White House aides cannot. be forced to testify before Congress, ”Terwilliger said in a statement. “We appreciate the openness of the ad hoc committee to receive voluntary responses to unprivileged topics.”
The testimony is expected to be private, as will the commission’s practice with other witnesses.
Meadows’ testimony is seen as key to the committee’s investigation because he was deeply involved in Trump’s efforts to cancel the 2020 elections and could provide a decisive insight into what the president was doing and saying when the attack unfolded on January 6. spent significant time with Trump in the White House when crowds of presidential supporters stormed the Capitol. Meadows is said to have tried to convince Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump to bring her father to reason during the riots.
In the weeks leading up to the attack, Meadows had repeatedly pushed the Justice Department into investigating unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, according to emails sent to Congress, some of which were reviewed by The New York Times. He contacted several government officials to spur an investigation into allegations of electoral fraud, even after such allegations were dismissed by the court. And in late December, he attended a meeting with far-right Republican members of Congress, who spearheaded an attempt to challenge the January 6 vote count.
Meadows also liaised with organizers of the White House rally prior to the violence, the committee said.
Among the questions from the group to Meadows was whether he used a private cell phone to communicate on January 6 and where his text messages have been since that day.
CNN previously reported that Meadows had reached an agreement with the committee.
It was not immediately clear how extensive his collaboration would be and what documents he submitted, although Thompson said they contained “a significant amount of email.” But investigators had a strong incentive to negotiate a deal to sit down with him, in large part because they saw him as central to the public’s understanding of how the January 6 events happened.
“We see the game of chess between the committee and Meadows in different ways,” said Jonathan D. Schaub, a law professor at the University of Kentucky who worked in the Justice Department’s attorney office. “The committee really wants to hear from Meadows. He may know more than all the witnesses, so the committee is ready to give a little. “
The commissioners also believe that Meadows’s involvement could be a strong signal to lower-ranking former White House officials that they, too, should cooperate.
Citing Trump’s statement of executive privileges, Meadows’s lawyer Terwilliger wrote to the committee on November 10 that his client could not testify “with a clear conscience” out of “appreciation for our constitutional system and separation of powers.”
This position was denounced by Thompson and the commission’s deputy chairman, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. They accused Meadows of ignoring a legal subpoena and said they would consider filing a contempt of court charge to enforce it.
Thompson and Cheney called Trump’s privilege claims “bogus” and added that many of the issues they wanted to discuss with Meadows “were not even supposedly subject to any privilege claims, even if they were.”
On Wednesday, the committee is expected to begin disrespecting congressional hearings against Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official implicated in Trump’s efforts to cancel the election, when he holds a vote meeting to recommend a sold-out conviction of a crime.
The vote will mark the second such rivalry between the committee and an ally of the former president since Congress began investigating the Capitol riots that have resulted in numerous deaths and dozens of injuries.
Trump did not immediately make a public announcement about Meadows’s deal with the commission, but he attacked the committee on Tuesday for opposing Clark.
“It’s interesting to see how the election cancellation committee is targeting a Justice Department gentleman who thought the election was rigged, but is not targeting people who were rigged,” Trump said in a statement condemning the commission.
In October, the House of Representatives voted to recommend that another associate of the former president, Steve Bannon, be charged with criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the investigation. He was subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts, which could have held up to two years behind bars in total.
Committee spokesman Jamie Ruskin, M.D., a committee member, said the action against Bannon and Clark was a clear signal that the group will strictly comply with their subpoenas.
He said the committee wanted to ask Meadows a number of questions that no witness would consider controversial.
“There are a lot of things we need to hear from witnesses who claim that executive privilege is not even tied to executive privilege,” Ruskin said. “We want to start with them. I really think there is a category of witnesses who do not want to get involved with Steve Bannon’s obstructionist position. “
On Tuesday, the group also heard five-hour testimony behind closed doors from Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who opposed Trump’s attempts to cancel the election.
“His family suffered because of his veracity,” Thompson said, adding to Raffensperger’s testimony: “There are some things that will be known. It was a long session. “