Ex-Trump chief of staff sues panel investigating US Capitol riot

Congressional panel says it will move to hold Mark Meadows in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with probe.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had previously announced he would no longer cooperate with the January 6 investigation [File: Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]

The former chief of staff to US President Donald Trump has sued a congressional panel investigating the deadly January riot at the Capitol building in Washington, DC, as well as Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Mark Meadows filed the lawsuit on Wednesday, hours after the nine-member special committee said they would move forward with recommending the former White House official be held in contempt of Congress.

Meadows would be the third former Trump official the committee has recommended to be held criminally liable for refusing to participate in the probe, which was launched in July to look into events surrounding the riot on January 6, when the president’s supporters stormed the US legislature in an attempt to prevent Congress from not certifying the election victory of President Joe Biden.

Meadows’ lawsuit says two subpoenas issued by the panel, including one sent to telecommunications company Verizon for his phone and text data, are “overly broad and unduly burdensom” while calling the orders “unlawful and unenforceable”.

The challenge comes after Meadows, a former congressman who became Trump’s top aide during the former president’s last year in office, reached an agreement in November to share information with the panel.

In an about-face on Tuesday, his lawyer announced he would no longer cooperate.

Meadows is considered a key witness in the investigation, which seeks to determine, among other lingering questions, how involved the Trump administration was in the events on January 6.

Trump, who was impeached by the House of Representatives for allegedly egging on the rioters, but later acquitted in a Senate trial, has also sought to block the release of White House documents related to the incident and remains locked in a legal battle with the commission.

He has advised allies to stonewall the investigators, who have so far interviewed more than 250 witnesses and subpoenaed thousands of documents.

In a statement on Wednesday, the panel’s Democratic Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson and Republican Vice Chair Liz Cheney said they were not fazed by Meadow’s lawsuit.

“Mr Meadows’s flawed lawsuit won’t succeed at slowing down the Select Committee’s investigation or stopping us from getting the information we’re seeking,” they said in a statement.

They added the committee will meet next week to work on a report recommending that the House cite Meadows for contempt of Congress and refer him to the Justice Department for prosecution.

If charged and convicted, Meadows could face up to 12 months in prison.

The panel had previously recommended former Trump adviser Steve Bannon for contempt of Congress, leading to his indictment by a federal grand jury on two counts of the charges.

The committee has also moved ahead with recommending charges against former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark, who supported the president’s effort to overturn the election results, for his refusal to cooperate.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies