The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection voted Monday to recommend contempt charges against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows as lawmakers revealed a series of frantic texts he received as the attack was underway.
The texts, provided by Meadows before he ceased cooperating with the committee, revealed that members of Congress, Fox News anchors and even President Donald Trump’s own son were urging Meadows to push Trump to act quickly to stop the siege by his supporters.
“We need an Oval address,” Donald Trump Jr. texted Meadows as his father’s supporters were breaking into the Capitol, sending lawmakers running for their lives and interrupting the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory. “He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
Trump Jr. added, “He’s got to condemn this (expletive removed) ASAP.”
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the panel’s vice chairwoman, detailed the texts obtained by the committee as the panel voted to recommend the contempt charges against Meadows, who did not show up for a deposition last week after his lawyer said he would stop cooperating.
The panel voted 9-0 to recommend the contempt charges. The House is expected to vote Tuesday to refer the charges to the Justice Department, which will decide whether to prosecute the former Republican congressman.
Cheney said the texts show Trump’s “supreme dereliction” as he refused to strongly condemn the violence of his supporters, and also raise questions about whether he sought to obstruct the congressional certification through inaction.
“These texts leave no doubt,” Cheney said. “The White House knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol.”
The vote comes as the panel has already interviewed more than 300 witnesses, and subpoenaed more than 40 people, as it seeks to create the most comprehensive record yet of the lead-up to the insurrection and of the violent siege itself. The committee’s leaders have vowed to punish anyone who doesn’t comply, and the Justice Department has already indicted longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon after he defied his subpoena this fall.
“Whatever legacy he thought he left in the House, this is his legacy now,” committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said of Meadows ahead of the vote. “His former colleagues singling him out for criminal prosecution because he wouldn’t answer questions about what he knows about a brutal attack on our democracy. That’s his legacy.”
In a Monday letter to Thompson, Meadows’ attorney George Terwilliger said the contempt vote would be “unjust” because Meadows was one of Trump’s top aides and all presidents should be afforded executive privilege to shield their private conversations. Meadows himself sued the panel, asking a court to invalidate two subpoenas that he says are “overly broad and unduly burdensome.”
Terwilliger noted that the contempt statute has been used infrequently over time and argued that a contempt referral of a senior presidential aide “would do great damage to the institution of the Presidency.”