US Capitol riot panel moves to hold ex-Trump aide in contempt

Donald Trump’s ex-chief of staff stopped cooperating with congressional inquiry into the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

Mark Meadows
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows refused to show up for a scheduled deposition by the House panel investigating the January 6 Capitol riot [Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]

A United States House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6 US Capitol insurrection is preparing to bring a contempt of Congress charge against Mark Meadows, former President Donald Trump’s ex-chief of staff.

Meadows has refused to be interviewed by the House committee, which is tasked with probing the events leading up to the storming of the Capitol building by a mob of Trump supporters.

The panel is scheduled to meet on Monday night to advance the contempt charge against Meadows, who US lawmakers believe played a central role in Trump’s campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 US presidential election.

Trump has sought to block the release of White House records related to the deadly riot by asserting “executive privilege” – and some of his former top advisers have made similar arguments in their refusal to cooperate with the House committee.

Meadows last week stopped cooperating with the investigation and refused to show up for a scheduled deposition.

“To be clear, Mr Meadows’ failure to comply, and this contempt recommendation, are not based on good-faith disagreements over privilege assertions,” the committee said in a statement on Sunday. “Rather, Mr Meadows has failed to comply and warrants contempt findings because he has wholly refused to appear to provide any testimony.”

A committee vote in favour of charging Meadows with contempt sets up a vote by the full House of Representatives later this week and potential prosecution by the US Department of Justice.

Trump political adviser Steve Bannon has already been charged with contempt by the Justice Department for refusing to cooperate with the probe.

The committee’s inquiry is focused on Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the election, which he falsely claimed was marred by widespread fraud – an assertion that US courts have repeatedly rejected as lacking merit.

The panel of US lawmakers has interviewed hundreds of witnesses and is preparing to conduct public hearings beginning as soon as next month.

On January 6, thousands of the former Republican president’s supporters rallied in Washington, DC, where Trump gave a fiery speech in which he urged the crowd to “stop the steal”.

A mob of his supporters then marched on the US Capitol, stormed police barricades and invaded the halls of Congress. Trump was later impeached for “incitement of insurrection” in relation to the riot.

House January 6 Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, centre, says the panel has ‘no choice’ but to move forward with contempt charges against Meadows [J Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

US lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence, meeting in formal session that day to certify President Joe Biden’s election win, were temporarily forced into hiding until police were able to regain control of the Capitol building.

In the 11 months since, more than 700 people have been arrested and charged with obstruction, assault or impeding law enforcement among other infractions, according to the FBI.

Among the documents the committee wants to question Meadows about is an email he sent saying the National Guard would “protect pro-Trump people” on January 6.

Investigators also are interested in Meadow’s outreach to officials in contested states, members of Congress, leaders at the Justice Department and organisers of Trump’s rally that turned violent.

Meadows last week filed a lawsuit seeing to block the committee’s demand that he sit for an interview, arguing the inquiry is overly broad and intrusive. Committee leaders rejected Meadow’s legal claims as “flawed”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies