By Zachary Cohen and Ryan Nobles | CNN
The House select committee investigating the January 6 riot at the US Capitol voted Monday that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows should be referred to the Department of Justice on criminal contempt of Congress charges.
During Monday’s business meeting, members of the committee revealed texts between Meadows and several high-profile individuals on January 6 as the violence unfolded, including Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., who urged the chief of staff to help push the President to condemn the riot in real-time.
Those texts, as several members of the committee noted, were already turned over to the committee and are not covered by any claim of privilege — which Meadows has continued to assert since reversing his decision to cooperate with the investigation.
Members voted to formally advance the criminal contempt report against Meadows for a full floor House vote, which could take place as soon as later this week. The vote by the full House is the last step before sending the referral to the Justice Department.
In his opening remarks during Monday’s meeting, the committee’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, took the opportunity to highlight the committee’s progress and paint Meadows, as well as a handful of other Trump allies who continue to defy the panel, as outliers.
“This week, I expect that roughly a dozen key witnesses will provide testimony on the record in our investigation. We’ll hear from many more informally as we continue to gather facts about the violence of January 6th and its causes,” Thompson said. “That should put us well north of the 300 mark in terms of witnesses who have given us information. Add to that more than 30,000 records, and nearly 250 substantive tips on our tip line.”
The committee informed Meadows last week that it had “no choice” but to advance criminal contempt proceedings against him given that he had decided to no longer cooperate with its investigation.
Committee releases Meadows’ texts with lawmakers and Trump’s son
Also at Monday night’s meeting, the committee publicly released graphics that include texts sent to Meadows during the days around the insurrection.
Texts from unnamed lawmakers sent to Meadows said that former Vice President Mike Pence “should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.”
The committee’s vice chairwoman, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, said other texts were sent in real time about the events as they unfolded.
“These text messages leave no doubt. The White House knew exactly what was happening here at the Capitol,” Cheney said. “One text Mr. Meadows received said quote ‘We are under siege here at the Capitol.’”
“In a third, ‘Mark, protesters are literally storming the Capitol, breaking windows on doors, rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?’ A fourth, ‘There’s an armed standoff at the House chamber door.’ And another from someone inside the Capitol: ‘We are all helpless.’”
Cheney also read texts from news personalities from Fox News and Trump’s own children.
“As the violence continued, one of the President’s sons texts Mr. Meadows, ‘He’s got to condemn this ASAP. The capitol police tweet is not enough,’ Donald Trump Jr. texted. Meadows responded, ‘I am pushing it hard. I agree.’”
Cheney continued: “Donald Trump Jr. texted again and again, urging action by the President. Quote, ‘We need an Oval Office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far. And gotten out of hand,’ end quote. But hours passed without necessary action by the President,” Cheney said.
When the events of the certification of the Electoral College eventually happened in the early hours of January 7, Meadows received a text calling January 6 a “terrible day.”
“Yesterday was a terrible day. We tried everything we could in our objections to the 6 states,” the text read. “I’m sorry nothing worked.”
Committee releases report Sunday
On Sunday, the committee released its contempt report, which contained several new details about Meadows’ actions before and during January 6, as well as his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.
The committee notes that in one email Meadows sent to an individual about January 6, he said that “the National Guard would be present to ‘protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby.”
Additionally, the committee said in the report that Meadows “exchanged text messages with, and provided guidance to, an organizer of the January 6th rally on the Ellipse after the organizer told him that ‘[t]hings have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction.’”
The new documents come as Meadows’ role is under renewed scrutiny following his decision to cease cooperating with the committee last week.
The committee has previously sought communications between Meadows and certain rally organizers as the panel remains focused on identifying any level of coordination with the Trump White House. The report goes on to note that Meadows was directly involved in efforts to overturn the election results in key swing states Trump lost and helped push unfounded claims about voter fraud.
Meadows’ lawyer asked the panel Monday to reconsider its plans. In a letter to the committee, Meadows’ attorney George Terwilliger III said the “contemplated referral would be contrary to law” because his client is a senior official who made a “good-faith invocation of executive privilege and testimonial immunity.”“A referral of a senior presidential aide would also be unwise because it would do great damage to the institution of the Presidency, as restraint in the application of the statute over time attests,” Terwilliger wrote.
Terwilliger said that Meadows’ choice to decline a deposition is an attempt to comply with his “legal obligations” as a former Trump adviser. “History and the law teach that this attempt is not a crime,” Terwilliger wrote.
Terwilliger also suggested the committee should allow the civil lawsuit Meadows filed against the panel to play out before moving to contempt — because a ruling in that case would resolve the questions surrounding privilege that are in dispute.