WASHINGTON, Dec 7 — Donald Trump’s former chief of staff has ended his cooperation with the congressional committee investigating the January 6 assault on the US Capitol by supporters of the former president, his lawyer said today.
Mark Meadows, who failed to appear before the panel last month, is seen as a key witness to Trump’s role in efforts to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s election win.
Meadows had initially snubbed a subpoena to testify before the House panel, setting up possible contempt charges, before reaching an agreement on sharing information with investigators.
“Now actions by the select committee have made such an appearance untenable,” Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger, said in a new letter to the committee circulated among US media.
The lawyer said Meadows’ change of mind had come after he learned over the weekend that the committee had “issued wide ranging subpoenas for information from a third party communications provider.”
“In short, we now have every indication from the information supplied to us last Friday — upon which Mr. Meadows could expect to be questioned — that the select committee has no intention of respecting boundaries concerning executive privilege,” Terwillinger added.
He told the committee his client would be prepared to answer written questions, according to CNN, but “must decline the opportunity to appear voluntarily for a deposition.”
Meadows was serving as Trump’s chief of staff when backers of the former president stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to halt the certification of Democrat Biden’s presidential election victory.
Trump has invoked “executive privilege” — a carve-out available in theory only to sitting presidents to protect their private exchanges with aides — in a bid to avoid having to turn over documents requested by the committee.
Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon was arrested last month on a contempt of Congress charge after refusing a subpoena to testify before the committee.
House investigators believe Meadows, Bannon and other Trump advisors and staffers could have information on links between the White House and the mob that invaded the Capitol.
The committee has subpoenaed a number of Trump’s allies as it closes in on the actions of those involved in planning the rallies in Washington that preceded the assault on Congress.
Trump urged his supporters to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell” in a fiery speech on January 6 that was the culmination of months of baseless fraud claims about a contest he had lost fairly to Biden.
Terwillinger did not respond immediately to a request for comment. — AFP