A former top Trump official is now cooperating with the congressional 6 January riot investigation, after months of tension over whether he would honour the inquiry’s requests for information.
Former Trump administration chief of staff Mark Meadows, who was in contact with the organisers of rallies that occurred the day of the attack on the Capitol, has been providing records to the House select committee investigating the riot, and will appear for an initial interview, CNN reports.
"Mr Meadows has been engaging with the Select Committee through his attorney," Mississippi’s Bennie Thompson, who chairs the committee, said in a statement. "He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for an initial deposition.
“The Committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition,” he added.
The initial cooperation, which could still founder over disagreements on issues like the extent of Donald Trump’s executive privilege privacy claims over certain communications, is a major reversal and a break for investigators. Other top Trump officials, including former advisor Steve Bannon, have been charged with contempt of Congress, for failing to turn over documents or testify.
Earlier this month, Mr Meadows’s lawyer George Terwilliger said the former chief of staff could not comply “in good conscience” with the committee’s requests for testimony about the former president until courts ruled on Mr Trump’s privacy claims, lest Mr Meadows “undermine the office and all who hold it.”
Now, however, Mr Meadows plans to work with the committee “to see if we can reach an accommodation that does not require Mr Meadows to waive Executive Privilege or to forfeit the long-standing position that senior White House aides cannot be compelled to testify before Congress," Mr Terwilliger told CNN.
Investigators have honed in on Mr Meadows because of his closeness to the president, hoping to ask about potential communications that took place on a private cell phone during the 6 January riot, as well as Mr Meadows’s role pushing the Department of Justice to investigate the same election conspiracy theories that may have inspired the Capitol rioters.
Earlier this month, Representative Pete Aguilar, another Democrat on the committee, told reporters he hoped to ask Mr Meadows about "his conversations about stopping a free and fair election, about criticizing and stopping the counting of electoral votes, about his coordination with campaign officials on private devices that were not turned over, all of those issues are not privilege worthy and he has some explaining to do.”
Donald Trump has made the unprecedented request that hundreds of pages of White House call and visitor logs, emails, draft speeches, notes, and other materials requested by investigators be kept secret under the doctrine of executive privilege, even though he is no longer president and Joe Biden approves of releasing the information, prompting an intense court fight.
The case is currently before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which heard arguments on Tuesday.
“Who decides when it’s in the best interest of the United States to disclose presidential records? Is it the current occupant of the White House or the former?” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson asked Trump’s attorney.
“We have one president at a time under our Constitution,” added Judge Patricia A Millett said.
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