Last week, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows announced a tentative deal to provide testimony to the House January 6 Select Committee. Even at the time it sounded shaky, with Committee Chair Bennie Thompson promising that "[t]he committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition."
But excerpts of Meadows's book are dropping, and the Old Man is apparently PISSED about his little buddy spilling the beans on Trump's pre-debate COVID diagnosis. So now it's time to make a big show of flouncing out and standing up for the Dear Leader.
"Yet again, with the breadth of its subpoenas and its pugnacious approach, the Select Committee has made clear that it does not intend to respect these important constitutional limits," Meadows's attorney George Terwilliger III said in a letter announcing his client's intent to withdraw from the deal.
The two sides couldn't even agree whether Meadows would be appearing "voluntarily" or under subpoena, a distinction which matters because he couldn't be compelled to answer questions in a voluntary appearance. If, however, he appeared under subpoena, he couldn't just refuse to answer citing "the advice of counsel." He'd have to make a specific claim of privilege, and the expansive interpretation of executive privilege asserted by some weirdo in Florida, encompassing conversations Meadows had with people outside the executive branch, was never going to cut it.
"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 huffed.
Meadows is also bigly mad that the committee subpoenaed his phone records "without regard to either the broad breadth of the information sought, which would include intensely personal communications of no moment to any legitimate matters of interest to the Select Committee, nor to the potentially privileged status of the information demanded." Also Chair Thompson went on Maddow last night and said that pleading the Fifth, as Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman have announced they intend to do, is an implicit acknowledgment of potential criminal liability. Which has nothing whatsoever to do with Meadows's case, but shine on you noisy diamond.
It's not clear now whether Meadows will go full Bannon and just refuse to show up, all but daring the Select Committee to refer him to the Justice Department for prosecution. The letter is perhaps deliberately hazy on this point, saying "we now must decline the opportunity to appear voluntarily for a deposition," as if that offer was ever on the table.
Meadows may have difficulty claiming that he can't show up at all because he's "precluded from making a unilateral decision to waive Executive Privilege claims asserted by the former president." First of all, he's run his mouth in the book about his time in the White House, and so he's in no position to claim that everything he saw and heard there is presumptively privileged. And second, his prior agreement to appear demonstrates that he knows the committee has some questions on topics which are not covered by any plausible invocation of privilege. So he's hardly in a position to refuse to show up on the grounds that none of the queries are legit.
Big props for running Trump's play though. The former president tried the snapback invocation of privilege, arguing that he wouldn't sue to invoke executive privilege as to the testimony of former (acting) Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and other top DOJ officials, unless the Committee issued further subpoenas — because apparently their testimony became magically privileged if the invocation could be used as a sword to beat back further inquiry.
In summary and in conclusion, sometimes you gotta ask yourself one question, "Do I feel lucky?"
Well, do ya, punk?
And HELLO, as we were typing, the Select Committee answered that question in this statement:
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. 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.
Tomorrow’s deposition, which was scheduled at Mr. Meadows’s request, will go forward as planned. If indeed Mr. Meadows refuses to appear, the Select Committee will be left no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution.
Oh, hey! Kinda sounds like they got his phone records and found a bunch of stuff he failed to turn over to the National Archives, huh?
Looks like someone's luck is about to run out.
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