Donald Trump’s former chief of staff said on Tuesday he was no longer willing to cooperate with the investigation into the January assault on USCapitol, prompting investigators to threaten him with criminal charges.
Mark Meadows, who did not appear before the Congressional panel last month, is seen as a key witness to Trump’s role in efforts to overturn the election by undemocratic means.
After initially snubbing a subpoena to testify before the House of Representatives committee, Meadows then came to an agreement to share information with lawmakers – before changing course again.
“Now the actions of the select committee have made such an appearance untenable,” Meadows lawyer George Terwilliger said in a new letter to the committee circulated among US media.
The lawyer said Meadows’ change of mind came after learning over the weekend that the committee had “issued high-profile subpoenas to obtain information from a third-party communications provider.”
“We now have all indications from the information provided to us last Friday – about which Mr. Meadows might expect to be questioned – that the select committee does not intend to abide by the limits on executive privilege.” , added Terwillinger.
Meadows was Trump’s chief of staff when supporters of the former president stormed the USCapitolon on Jan.6 in an attempt to stop Democrat Joe Biden’s certification of victory in the presidential election.
Trump invoked “executive privilege” – an exception available in theory only to sitting presidents to protect sensitive private exchanges with assistants – in an attempt to avoid having to hand over documents requested by the committee.
The panel rejected Meadows’ claim of executive privilege, noting that the hard-line former Republican congressman provided many details about the attack, including his conversations with then-President Trump in a new book .
Panel chairman Bennie Thompson and his deputy Liz Cheney said in a statement they plan to make the deposition of the Trump loyalist scheduled for Wednesday.
“If indeed Mr. Meadows refuses to appear, the select committee will have no choice but to advance the contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served discharge him for criminal prosecution. “
“Fight like hell”
House investigators believe Meadows, former White House strategist Steve Bannon, and other Trump advisers and staff may have information about the White House’s connections to the mob of Trump supporters who have stormed the Capitol.
Bannon was arrested last month for contempt of Congress after refusing his own subpoena and a federal judge sitting for a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, July 18 for his trial.
The committee has subpoenaed a number of Trump allies, as it draws closer to the actions of those who were involved in planning the rallies in Washington that preceded the assault on Congress.
Trump urged his supporters to march on Capitol Hill to “fight like hell” in a fiery speech on Jan.6 that was the culmination of months of unfounded fraud over a contest he had fairly lost to Biden.
News of Meadows’ about-face came as the watchdog overseeing USCapitolPolice told Congress the agency had not done enough since the assault to keep lawmakers safe in the event of a another attack.
Inspector General Michael Bolton told the Senate Rules Committee that of 200 security enhancements the department provided to the Inspector General, only 61 had been made.
He said the agency “lacks the comprehensive training infrastructure to meet the needs of the department, the level of intelligence gathering and expertise needed, and the overall culture change needed.”
“The United StatesCapitolPolice agrees with the Inspector General that the department must continue to improve and expand its intelligence and protection capabilities,” the force said in a statement in response to Bolton.
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