Meadows attorney tells Jan. 6 Committee contempt charge would be ‘manifestly unjust'

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The attorney for former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in a Monday letter asked the House Jan. 6 Committee not to refer the former Trump adviser to the Department of Justice for contempt of Congress, arguing doing so “would be contrary to law, manifestly unjust, unwise, and unfair.” 

Meadows was previously cooperating with the committee’s investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. But he later stopped working with the investigators and is now suing them. The committee is expected recommend this week that the House refer him to the Department of Justice for contempt of Congress. 

“The contemplated referral would be contrary to law because a good-faith invocation of executive privilege and testimonial immunity by a former senior executive official is not a” crime, Meadows’ lawyer, George Terwilliger, wrote. 

“A referral to the Department of Justice based on such an invocation would ignore the statute’s legislative history and historical application, contravene well-established separation of powers principles, and improperly impute a criminal intent to a good-faith actor,” he added. 

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks to reporters following a television interview, outside the White House in Washington, Oct. 21, 2020. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Picture/File Photo
(REUTERS/Al Drago/File Picture/File Photo)

The letter also argues that referring Meadows for contempt would harm the institution of the presidency because it would tread on separation of powers and potentially make future presidential advisers reluctant to give their principal full and honest advice on key decisions. 

The Jan. 6 Committee, however, is aggressively asserting what it says are its constitutional powers of oversight and investigation. Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Ranking Member Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said last week that Meadows’ claims of privilege do not extend to much of what he would discuss with the committee. 

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., arrive for the first House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 27, 2021. (AP Photo/ Andrew Harnik, Pool)
(AP Photo/ Andrew Harnik, Pool)

“Even as we litigate privilege issues, the Select Committee has numerous questions for Mr. Meadows about records he has turned over to the Committee with no claim of privilege, which include real-time communications with many individuals as the events of January 6th unfolded,” they said in a statement. “We also need to hear from him about voluminous official records stored in his personal phone and email accounts, which were required to be turned over to the National Archives in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.”

The committee already referred former Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark to the Justice Department for contempt of Congress. 

Fox News’ Lillian LeCroy contributed to this report.

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