The Jan. 6 Select Committee swiftly condemned the Justice Department’s refusal to slap contempt of Congress charges against former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, hours after former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was indicted on Friday for failing to cooperate with the panel.
U.S. Attorney Matt Graves reportedly informed Doug Letter, the House general counsel, of the DOJ’s decision on Friday.
“Based on the individual facts and circumstances of their alleged contempt, my office will not be initiating prosecutions for criminal contempt as requested in the referral against Messrs. Meadows and Scavino,” Graves wrote to Letter on Friday in a letter obtained by the New York Times. “My office’s review of each of the contempt referrals arising from the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation is complete.”
Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) criticized the DOJ’s move as a “puzzling” development.
“Mr. Meadows and Mr. Scavino unquestionably have relevant knowledge about President Trump’s role in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the events of January 6th. We hope the Department provides greater clarity on this matter,” Thompson and Cheney’s statement said.
Prior to the House’s vote to charge Meadows and Scavino with contempt in April, the former Trump administration officials briefly engaged in negotiations with the committee’s lawyers. Both Meadows and Scavino made claims of executive privilege in refusing to outright cooperate with the committee’s investigation.
However, Meadows briefly cooperated with the panel and voluntarily handed over texts and emails, only to reverse course yet again and refuse to cooperate. During his brief cooperation, Meadows produced more than 9,000 documents. Upon halting his cooperation, Meadows sued the committee, its members, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in an effort to block the enforcement of the panel’s subpoena.
Before Twitter banned the former president in the aftermath of the deadly Capitol insurrection, Scavino was in charge of Trump’s account. Scavino reportedly accompanied Trump the day before the insurrection as Trump tried to sway lawmakers into blocking the certification of Biden’s electoral victory.
Earlier Friday, the DOJ unsealed charges against Navarro with two counts of contempt of Congress for similarly refusing to testify before the Jan. 6 Select Committee. Navarro, who was taken into custody on the charges, is the first Trump official arrested for events related to the deadly Capitol insurrection.
Navarro was subpoenaed by the committee in February, demanding that the former White House trade adviser provide information about former President Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. Among Navarro’s Big Lie efforts was his half-baked plan conceived with former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon to challenge the election results, which they called the “Green Bay Sweep.” The plan would have seen then-Vice President Mike Pence reject Electoral College slates from states that Joe Biden won, delaying the Jan. 6 certification of his victory.
Bannon was also charged by the DOJ with contempt last year for his refusal to cooperate with the committee’s investigation, but was allowed to surrender of his own volition. Bannon is scheduled to go to trial in July in the contempt charges the DOJ brought against him.
Unlike Meadows and Scavino, Navarro and Bannon brazenly defied the committee’s request for cooperation and did not attempt to negotiate terms.