Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows filed a lawsuit against the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol on Wednesday, as members of the panel looked to move forward with contempt of Congress charges against their former colleague for not complying with a subpoena.
The Meadows complaint comes at the tail end of negotiations between members of the Jan. 6 panel and Meadows, who left his spot representing a North Carolina district in the House to be White House chief of staff in 2020 under President Donald Trump.
Meadows earlier had agreed to attend a deposition Wednesday with the select panel, but then refused to appear. Meadows already had produced documents, but claimed various privileges on many others. He also just published a book, “The Chief’s Chief,” wherein he writes about the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“That he would sell his telling of the facts of that day while denying a congressional committee the opportunity to ask him about the attack on our Capitol marks an historic and aggressive defiance of Congress,” Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., wrote in a letter to Meadows’ lawyer Tuesday night.
The committee said that Wednesday’s scheduled interview would have afforded Meadows the opportunity to answer questions or “assert and articulate a specific privilege he believes protects that information from disclosure.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, hours before the lawsuit was filed, said the panel plans to move forward quickly with contempt charges against Meadows. “We’re looking at the calendar and trying to figure it out,” the California Democrat said.
Meadows, in a 43-page complaint, asked the courts to stop the House from enforcing subpoenas for Meadows and Verizon Wireless, and prohibit the House from viewing or disclosing any information from the subpoenas, among other requests.
The Meadows lawsuit also seeks a handful of “declaratory judgments,” including one that finds the committee’s subpoenas exceed congressional authority, and another that finds the Verizon subpoena violates federal law and Meadows’ constitutional rights.
The lawsuit joins other pending court actions related to the Jan. 6 panel. A federal appeals court in Washington is considering Trump’s lawsuit that seeks to block the committee’s request for White House records.
And a federal judge set a July trial date for former White House adviser Stephen Bannon, who was indicted last month on two counts of contempt of Congress for not complying with a subpoena.
The panel has also recommended Jeffrey Clark, who served in Trump’s Justice Department leading up to and during the insurrection, be held in contempt, but the House has not yet voted on that.
The panel wanted to give Clark one more chance to sit for a deposition after he said he wanted to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. He is set to appear to testify Dec. 16.
Meadows had produced documents Nov. 26 from his personal email account. Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger III, provided the panel with a privilege log indicating hundreds of additional documents from Meadows’ personal email were not disclosed because of executive, attorney-client or other privilege claims.
The documents Meadows did produce includes a Nov. 7, 2020, email talking about appointing alternate electors as part of a “direct and collateral attack” following the presidential election. A Jan. 5, 2021, email concerns a 38-page PowerPoint brief called “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN” to be provided “on the hill.” Another Jan. 5, 2021, email produced addresses having the National Guard on standby.
Meadows on Dec. 3 turned over some relevant messages from his personal cell phone. A privilege log was produced by his lawyer noting more than 1,000 text messages were withheld on what the committee described as “broad claims of executive, attorney-client, and other privileges.”
The committee highlights some text conversations Meadows did produce. A Nov. 6, 2020, text exchange Meadows had with a member of Congress concerns a plan to appoint alternate electors in particular states, which the member said would be “highly controversial” and Meadows responded “I love it.”
Other texts produced by Meadows include an early January 2021 text message between him and an organizer of the Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse. Also included are text messages about the need for then-President Donald Trump to make a public statement that could have stopped the Capitol attack.