Donald Trump’s former chief of staff filed suit Wednesday against the congressional committee pursuing him for criminal contempt over his refusal to testify in their probe of the deadly US Capitol assault.
Mark Meadows specifically names Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives who launched the investigation alongside all nine members of the panel preparing a report on the January 6 insurrection by thousands of Trump’s supporters.
The lawsuit, filed a day after the panel told Meadows it was taking action over his defiance of a subpoena to appear for a deposition on Wednesday, challenges the legality of the “unduly burdensome” summons and asks the Washington district court to strike it down.
Meadows, who initially failed to appear before the congressional panel last month, is seen as a key witness to Trump’s role in efforts to overturn the election by subverting the democratic process.
He initially snubbed a subpoena to testify before the committee but later reached an agreement on appearing in person — before reversing course again.
Reacting to his latest about-face, the panel wrote to Meadows late Tuesday saying it had “no choice” but to advance criminal contempt proceedings against him.
The letter, released by the committee on Wednesday, added to the public record information from a trove of thousands of items of correspondence and other documents Meadows had already voluntarily turned over.
They included a November 6, 2020, text exchange with a member of Congress in which Meadows reportedly said “I love it” in a discussion about a plan to disenfranchise millions of voters in a bid to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential election win.
– Threat of jail –
If the House panel goes ahead with its threat, it will likely meet in the coming days to vote on adopting a contempt report setting out the case against Meadows.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives would then vote to refer him to the Justice Department to consider charges.
A timetable for that decision has yet to be revealed. If convicted, Meadows would face up to 12 months in prison, but more likely a fine.
Steve Bannon, another senior aide in the Trump administration and a long-time ally of the defeated former president, is due to be tried for contempt in July after defying his own subpoena.
Thousands of Trump’s supporters, many associated with ultra-nationalist and white supremacist groups, stormed the Capitol eight months ago in an effort to overturn Biden’s election victory.
They had been egged on by Trump, whose fiery speech earlier that day falsely claiming election fraud was the culmination of months of baseless statements about a contest he lost fairly to Biden.
A comfortable majority of 57 senators — including seven from his own party — voted to convict Trump after he was impeached by the House for inciting the riot, although this fell short of the two-thirds majority required under Senate rules to unseat a president.
© Agence France-Presse