Mark Meadows files lawsuit against Capitol riot committee

Former Trump chief of staff facing criminal contempt of Congress citation after refusing to give evidence before the committee

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Thursday 09 December 2021 02:48
Mark Meadows calls Donald Trump's Covid test 'fake news'
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Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the House select committee investigating the 6 January insurrection from enforcing subpoenas against him.

Mr Meadows filed a suit on Friday in US District of Court for the District of Columbia against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, select committee chairman Bennie Thompson, and the other eight members committee members.

The lawsuit seeks to “invalidate and prohibit the enforcement of two overly broad and unduly burdensome subpoenas ... issued in whole or part without legal authority in violation of the Constitution and laws of the United States”.

“The Select Committee acts absent any valid legislative power and threatens to violate longstanding principles of executive privilege and immunity that are of constitutional origin and dimension. Without intervention by this Court, Mr. Meadows faces the harm of both being illegally coerced into violating the Constitution and having a third party involuntarily violate Mr Meadows rights and the requirements of relevant laws governing records of electronic communications. Only this Court can prevent these grave harms,” his attorneys said in the complaint, which was obtained by The Independent.

Mr Meadows is also asking the court to invalidate a subpoena issued to Verizon Wireless for records of his communications during the months leading to the 6 January insurrection, calling the committee’s request for records “entirely unreasonable”.

“Such a request is so broad both temporally and with respect to the collected data, that the Select Committee exceeds any lawfully authorized purpose,” his attorneys wrote.

Mr Meadows’ lawsuit comes just hours after Mr Thompson sent a letter to his attorney which informed the former North Carolina congressman that the select committee would begin the process of seeking criminal contempt of Congress charges against their former colleague after he failed to appear for a Wednesday 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,” Mr Thompson said in the letter. “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.” 

The Mississippi Democrat also took issue with Mr Meadows’ decision to discuss conversations with former president Donald Trump in his new book, The Chief’s Chief, while refusing to answer questions about them from the committee on the grounds that they are shielded by executive privilege.

“That he would sell his telling of the facts of that day while denying a congressional committee the opportunity to ask him about the attack on our Capitol marks an historic and aggressive defiance of Congress,” Mr Thompson said.

In a statement, Mr Thompson and select committee vice chair Liz Cheney said Mr Meadows’ “flawed lawsuit won’t succeed at slowing down the Select Committee’s investigation,” nor would it stop the committee from obtaining the information it needs.

“The Select Committee will meet next week to advance a report recommending that the House cite Mr. Meadows for contempt of Congress and refer him to the Department of Justice for prosecution,” they added.

Most legal experts say that Mr Meadows’ decision to discuss purportedly privileged conversations with Mr Trump in his book constitutes an effective waiver of that privilege. Additionally, the current president, Mr Biden, has declined to honour claims of privilege from Mr Trump and his aides over White House records created in the days leading up to the 6 January attack, the worst on the home of America’s legislature since British troops under the command of Major General Robert Ross set it ablaze in 1814.

According to Mr Thompson, Mr Meadows has also already provided the committee with numerous documents pertaining to the events of 6 January, including “a November 7, 2020, email discussing the appointment of alternate slates of electors as part of a ‘direct and collateral attack’ after the election; a 5 January, 2021, email regarding a 38-page PowerPoint briefing titled ‘Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN’ that was to be provided ‘on the hill’; and ... a January 5, 2021, email about having the ‘National Guard on standby”.

Other documents which Mr Thompson listed as already having been provided to the committee under no claim of privilege include “an early January 2021 text message exchange between Mr Meadows and an organiser of the January 6th rally on the Ellipse; and text messages about the need for the former President to issue a public statement that could have stopped the January 6th attack on the Capitol”.

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