Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has abruptly ended his cooperation with the congressional committee investigating the January 6 assault on the United States Capitol by supporters of the former president, his lawyer said.
Lawyer George Terwilliger said in a letter on Tuesday that a deposition would be “untenable” for his client.
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He said the congressional panel probing the Capitol riot “has no intention of respecting boundaries” concerning questions that Trump has claimed are off-limits due to “executive privilege”.
Meadows is seen as a key witness to Trump’s role in efforts to stop the January 6 certification of US President Joe Biden’s election win.
He had initially snubbed a subpoena to testify before the House of Representatives panel, setting up possible contempt charges, before reaching an agreement on sharing information with investigators last month.
Terwilliger said Meadows’s change of mind came after he learned during the weekend that the committee had “issued wide-ranging subpoenas for information from a third party communications provider”.
Trump has sought to block the release of White House documents related to the January 6 insurrection by invoking executive privilege. The Biden administration rejected that argument in October, but Trump has gone to the courts to seek an order barring the release.
The former Republican president has urged his former associates not to cooperate with the congressional committee, calling the Democratic-led investigation politically motivated and arguing that his communications are protected.
The reversal came as Meadows has been receiving attention for a new book, released on Tuesday, which revealed that Trump received a positive COVID-19 test before a presidential debate and was far sicker than the White House revealed at the time.
Shortly before the January 6 riot, Trump gave a speech to his supporters repeating his false claims that the election was “stolen” from him through widespread voter fraud. He urged to crowd to “fight like hell” to “stop the steal” and was later impeached for “incitement of insurrection”.
Bannon to face contempt charge in July
In a related development, former longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon will face criminal charges on July 18 for his refusal to appear in the congressional inquiry into the riot, a judge said on Tuesday.
The trial date, set by US District Judge Carl Nichols, represented a compromise between the government and Bannon’s lawyers, who each offered competing proposed trial dates.
Prosecutors had asked for a trial in April, but Bannon’s lawyers said they needed more time to prepare and had sought a date in October.
Nichols said that none of the January 6 criminal cases “involving the people who were in the Capitol or committed violence in the Capitol … have yet gone to trial for indictments that happened in January”.
He noted the case against Bannon, by contrast, is a misdemeanour and yet the government wants to move at “lightspeed”. At the same time, he added, a proposal for an October trial would be “too slow”.
Bannon was indicted on one contempt count for refusing to appear for a deposition before the committee and a second count for refusing to produce documents.