After months of back-and-forth over whether he would voluntarily share records and testimony with the congressional Jan. 6 Committee’s investigation into the Capitol attack, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows indicated Wednesday that he has decided to go back to stonewalling the committee.
According to the former White House chief’s lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III, Meadows was spooked by something he heard from the committee a week ago about executive privilege — a supposed top priority for Meadows even though he just wrote a book about his time in the Trump White House.
“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,” Terwilliger said in a letter to the committee first reported by CNN.
He separately objected to what he said were recent, “wide ranging subpoenas” sent by the committee to an unnamed third party communications provider.
Terwilliger also took issue with recent comments from Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) about another witness in the investigation, who Terwilliger also didn’t name.
“Mr. Chairman, your recent comments in regard to another witness that his assertion of 5th Amendment rights before the Select Committee is tantamount to an admission of guilt calls into question for us what we had hoped would be the Select Committee’s commitment to fundamental fairness in dealing with witnesses,” the attorney wrote.
It wasn’t immediately clear which comments Terwilliger was referencing. Former Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark has indicated that he will plead the fifth before the committee, as has Trump legal adviser John Eastman.
In a statement last week, committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) said of Clark, “We will depose Mr. Clark on Saturday. And at that point, we will know exactly what testimony Clark believes may incriminate him.” (That deposition was reportedly delayed by a health issue.)
“As a result of careful and deliberate consideration of these factors, we now must decline the opportunity to appear voluntarily for a deposition,” Terwilliger concluded, criticizing the committee’s “pugnacious approach.”
And initially, things seemed to be moving along: In early October, as Steve Bannon refused to interact with the investigation, Thompson said that Meadows and Kash Patel, the Pentagon chief of staff at the time of the attack, were, “so far, engaging with the Select Committee.” The following week, Cheney said of the pair, “We’ll see if they show up” for depositions. But the depositions were ultimately delayed by the committee.
By November, the tone had changed: On Nov. 11, a Biden White House lawyer informed Meadows’ lawyer that Biden would not assert executive privilege over documents and testimony sought by the committee. “It now appears the courts will have to resolve this conflict,” Terwilliger said in response. The following day, Bannon was indicted for contempt of Congress, and Meadows skipped a scheduled deposition. Thompson and Cheney said then that Meadows had chosen to defy the law, and that his actions could force the committee to pursue a contempt charge.
By Nov. 28, Jan. 6 committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said he thought the committee would decide what to do with Meadows within the week.
That’s when Meadows changed his tune again. Thompson said the committee had received records from Terwilliger, and that the committee expected Meadows to appear soon for a deposition. Still, there was a question about how the group would deal with subjects that Meadows considered privileged — claims that some committee members said was undermined by Meadows’ new memoir.
“We appreciate the Select Committee’s openness to receiving voluntary responses on non-privileged topics,” Terwilliger told CNN at the time. “We’ll just have to see,” Thompson said.