The House voted 222-208 Tuesday night to hold Mark Meadows, a former congressman who left office in March 2020 to become former President Donald Trump's final chief of staff, in contempt of Congress. Meadows briefly complied with a subpoena for documents from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, but then stopped cooperating and refused to sit for an interview, as requested in a second subpoena.
Two Republicans, Jan. 6 committee members Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), voted with all Democrats to hold Meadows in contempt, sending the case to the Justice Department, which can decide to impanel a grand jury for possible criminal charges. The Justice Department did decide to charge Trump ally Stephen Bannon after the House held him in contempt for defying Jan. 6 committee subpoenas, but Meadows is the first former House member held in contempt by the House since the 1830s, The Associated Press reports.
If convicted, Meadows and Bannon would face up to a year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
A lawyer for Meadows insisted before the vote that the former congressman never stopped cooperating with the Jan. 6 committee but refused to be interviewed on subjects where Trump claims executive privilege, a shaky claim given that the current president has waived such claims on the Jan. 6 materials.
Cheney and other committee members said Meadows did not claim any privilege on the materials he turned over — including 6,600 pages from his personal email account — before ceasing his cooperation. As an example, they noted they wanted to ask him about text messages Meadows sent and received Jan. 6 with lawmakers, Fox News hosts, Donald Trump Jr., and other people pleading with Meadows to get Trump to tell his rioting supporters to stand down. They read some of the text messages to underscore their point.
House GOP leadership had whipped Republicans to vote against holding Meadows in contempt, and some House Republicans argued before the vote that the Jan. 6 committee was going after Meadows for partisan reasons.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday that "we're all watching, as you are, what is unfolding on the House side. And it will be interesting to reveal all the participants who were involved."