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Ex-Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will appear before the Jan. 6 panel

Nov 30, 2021
Originally published on November 30, 2021 6:52 pm

Updated November 30, 2021 at 8:49 PM ET

The Democratic-led House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has reached a new agreement with former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for him to appear for an initial deposition, and the panel says he is cooperating by providing documents.

The committee and Meadows' attorney, George Terwilliger, said on Tuesday that both sides had reached the agreement that included the appearance and the turning over of records. However, the committee warned that it is still weighing taking additional steps against Meadows depending on how cooperative he is with his testimony.

"Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the Select Committee through his attorney. He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for an initial deposition," Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who chairs the committee, said in a statement. "The Select Committee expects all witnesses, including Mr. Meadows, to provide all information requested and that the Select Committee is lawfully entitled to receive. The committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition."

A source familiar with the committee's proceedings told NPR that Meadows is expected to testify sometime next week.

'A positive step'

"It's not a deal," cautioned Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., one of the panel's lawmakers. "But it's positive. It's a positive step that he's engaging with the committee."

Aguilar, who is also vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said Meadows produced documents through his attorney that will be helpful to the panel, and members will go through those and assess his level of cooperation after his testimony.

Another California Democrat and panel member, Rep. Adam Schiff, agreed that Meadows' level of cooperation is not clear yet.

"We will reserve judgment about how fully he is complying with the subpoena," said Schiff, who is also chair of the House Intelligence Committee. "But I'm glad he's decided to appear and produce documents and we'll see just how serious he is ... when he does show up."

Meadows' attorney has repeatedly noted his client's objections to cooperating previously based on claims of executive privilege, which has been waived by the sitting president, Joe Biden, and is at issue in the courts regarding Donald Trump. On Tuesday, Terwilliger said they continue to look for a solution that doesn't breach that concern.

"As we have from the beginning, we continue to work with the Select Committee and its staff to see if we can reach an accommodation that does not require Mr. Meadows to waive Executive Privilege or to forfeit the long-standing position that senior White House aides cannot be compelled to testify before Congress," Terwilliger said in a statement. "We appreciate the Select Committee's openness to receiving voluntary responses on non-privileged topics."

Lawmakers have warned Meadows repeatedly that they could issue a criminal contempt referral if he does not ultimately cooperate. He failed to show up for a November deposition date, triggering one of those recent warnings.

"Mr. Meadows's actions today — choosing to defy the law — will force the Select Committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena," Thompson and the committee's ranking member, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in a joint statement after Meadows failed to show up Nov. 12.

Still, the panel has not yet acted on that statement in part because lawmakers have faced a bigger legal test with Meadows than they did with former strategist Steve Bannon, who was not working in the Trump administration on Jan. 6. The committee issued a criminal contempt referral for Bannon less than a month after he received his Sept. 23 subpoena — the same day Meadows received his.

But the panel has taken more than twice as long to decide if it'll take similar steps against Meadows.

Clark and Raffensperger

On Wednesday, the committee will meet to vote on a criminal contempt referral for ex-Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark. He would mark the second such case for the panel if the referral is approved.

On Tuesday the committee released more than a dozen exhibits in its contempt report, including its first publicly released transcript that shows Clark's attorney rejecting responses on his client's behalf because of executive privilege.

The moves against Bannon — and potentially Clark — may have sent messages to Meadows and other witnesses that cooperation is their best option.

"We've been clear and consistent throughout: Willful defiance of the committee will have consequences," Aguilar said. "We've shown that with Mr. Clark, we've shown that with Mr. Bannon, and we're not afraid to exercise it."

So far, the panel has interviewed nearly 250 witnesses, according to California Democrat and panel member Rep. Zoe Lofgren.

Among them is Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who was embroiled in a public feud with Trump over that state's election that went for Biden.

Raffensperger met in person with the panel for about four hours Tuesday.

In a statement, Raffensperger slammed what he called liberals' focus on Trump, and said conservatives should direct their attention to "kitchen table issues" instead.

"I spoke to the January 6th committee to ensure they included the full record of how stolen election claims damage our democracy – whether in 2016, 2018, or 2020," Raffensperger said.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, will appear before the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Today's announcement comes more than two months after Meadows received his subpoena. During weeks of disagreements between the two sides, Meadows claimed executive privilege prevents him from cooperating. Now he's turning over records and has agreed to appear. Joining us to discuss this is NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Hi, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So what exactly did Meadows agree to here?

GRISALES: So both Mark Meadows, through his attorney, and the panel say they've reached this agreement for him to appear for this initial deposition and provide some documents to the committee. Meadows' attorney, George Terwilliger, has repeatedly noted his client's objections to cooperating based on claims of executive privilege, and today said they continue to work with the panel and see if they can reach an ultimate agreement that does not require Meadows to waive this immunity - so, in other words, discuss issues that are not covered by this legal shield.

Meadows, in particular, was directed by former President Trump not to comply with the committee's request, saying he still retains some executive privilege claims here to keep some documents and conversations secret. But lawmakers and others argue that the privilege belongs to the current occupant of the presidency, and President Biden has already waived that in Meadows' case. Also, this fight over executive privilege is at the center of a lawsuit filed by Trump against the committee.

SHAPIRO: OK, so not every issue has been resolved. I know that the panel had been hinting as Meadows missed deadlines that it might consider referring him for criminal contempt. Are they taking that off the table?

GRISALES: No. The committee warned it is still weighing taking these additional steps against Meadows, depending on how cooperative he is with this testimony before the panel. Chairman Bennie Thompson said the committee will, quote, "continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition."

SHAPIRO: And the panel is set to meet tomorrow to consider a contempt referral against a different witness, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark. Bring us up to date on that.

GRISALES: Right. This is the former Trump ally who played a key role in Trump's efforts to involve the Justice Department in a probe into false election fraud claims. Clark is the second such case of criminal contempt before the committee. The first was former strategist Steve Bannon, who was indicted earlier this month, is now - and he is now battling that charge. In Clark's case, he came in with his attorney earlier this month as well before the committee, but he declined to answer specific questions, asserting privilege prevented him from doing so. He was not a White House adviser on January 6, so legal experts tell me any claims to executive privilege in this case will not work.

SHAPIRO: So, as you said, former President Trump is fighting this. And today an appellate court heard arguments in the case, where he's suing the committee to stop the release of some records. What's the status of that?

GRISALES: Right. Trump is trying to stop the release of those records from the National Archives from being transmitted to the committee. They have requested hundreds of pages. And a district court has already ruled against Trump, so he moved to appeal this ruling. So these records are on hold at this time. Now, this three-member panel of judges - they are all Democratic appointees. They heard arguments today in that effort to block the release of those records. It was a 3 1/2-hour hearing, where they heard a lot from both sides. But ultimately, the judges appeared to be more skeptical of Trump's claims. And we should note, this is a case witnesses are following very closely because it could dictate really how far Trump's claims to executive privilege really go and how much they will ultimately cooperate.

SHAPIRO: That fight over the January 6 investigation moving forward on multiple fronts, and congressional reporter Claudia Grisales following all of them for us. Thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you much.

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