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House January 6 committee chair threatens contempt if Meadows doesn't appear for deposition

Trump aides subpoenaed in Capitol riot probe
House committee subpoenas former Trump advisers in Capitol riot probe 08:00

The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is threatening to seek a contempt referral against former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows if he does not appear for a deposition on Friday morning. 

Committee chair Representative Bennie Thompson issued the warning in a publicly released letter to Meadows' attorney, George Terwilliger, accusing Meadows of resisting the panel's demands for documents and testimony and rejecting any grounds for non-compliance.

"Simply put, there is no valid legal basis for Mr. Meadows's continued resistance to the Select Committee's subpoena," Thompson wrote. 

Thompson said Meadows had failed to produce any documents sought by the panel, and instructed him to produce those records on Friday morning. Thompson said Meadows must produce a log describing any records he believes are privileged, and the basis for withholding them. 

Chief Of Staff Mark Meadows Briefs Media At The White House
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows talks to reporters at the White House on October 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. TASOS KATOPODIS / Getty Images

The standoff between Meadows and the committee comes as it faces a growing problem of stonewalling witnesses, including former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark. The House in October referred Bannon for criminal contempt, a matter now before the Justice Department.

Hours before Thompson's letter, Terwilliger in a statement to CBS News made clear Meadows would not cooperate with the committee unless ordered by a court to do so. 

Deputy White House counsel Jonathan Su notified Terwilliger in a letter on Thursday morning that President Biden would not assert executive privilege or immunity over the former congressman's documents and testimony. 

Su wrote  "President Biden recognizes the importance of candid advice," and protecting senior White House staff from testifying about their conversations concerning the President's duties when appropriate. 

"But in recognition of these unique and extraordinary circumstances, where Congress is investigating an effort to obstruct the lawful transfer of power under our Constitution, President Biden has already determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the public interest," Su wrote. 

In his statement, Terwilliger said the decision ran "(c)ontrary to decades of consistent bipartisan opinions from the Justice Department that senior aides cannot be compelled by Congress to give testimony."

"Mr. Meadows remains under the instructions of former President Trump to respect longstanding principles of executive privilege.  It now appears the courts will have to resolve this conflict," he said. .

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created the House select committee earlier this year to investigate the January 6 attack, when thousands of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol as Congress counted the electoral votes, a largely ceremonial final step affirming President Biden's victory. Lawmakers were sent fleeing amid the riot, which led to the deaths of five people and the arrests of hundreds more. Mr. Trump, who encouraged his supporters to "walk over" to the Capitol during the Stop the Steal rally, was impeached by the House one week later for inciting the riot but was later acquitted by the Senate

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