The congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol advanced a measure Monday referring former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to the Justice Department for contempt of Congress over his refusal to answer questions about the attack.
The bipartisan panel voted 9-0 to send the measure to the full House. The House is expected to vote as soon as Tuesday on whether to ask the Justice Department to prosecute Meadows, who was a House member before he joined the Trump administration.
Committee members Monday read aloud text messages that they said Meadows received from lawmakers and allies on and around Jan. 6.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the committee's vice chair, read text messages that she said were from Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade urging Meadows to get President Donald Trump to end the violence on Jan. 6.
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cheney also read correspondence from the former president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who sent multiple texts to Meadows pressing his father to take action.
“He’s got to condemn this s--- ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough,” Trump Jr. texted Jan. 6, according to the committee, referring to a tweet the former president posted as rioters clashed with police at the Capitol. “We need an oval office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far. And gotten out of hand.”
Donald Trump Jr. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cheney said Monday evening: "These non-privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump's supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes. And Mr. Meadows' testimony will bear on another key question before this committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress' official proceedings to count electoral votes? Mark Meadows' testimony is necessary to inform our legislative judgments.
"We cannot be satisfied with incomplete answers or half-truths, and we cannot surrender to President Trump’s efforts to hide what happened," she added. "We will be persistent, professional and nonpartisan. We must get to the objective truth and ensure that January 6th never happens again."
One of the committee's members, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., highlighted texts from lawmakers to Meadows. The members of Congress were not named.
“Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all,” a text to Meadows read.
Another text from a lawmaker read: “Yesterday was a terrible day. We tried everything we could in our objection to the 6 states. I’m sorry nothing worked.”
Meadows was largely dismissive of the committee vote during an appearance Monday night on "Hannity."
“This is not about holding me in contempt, it’s not even about making the Capitol safer,” Meadows said. “This is about Donald Trump and about actually going after him once again.”
There was no discussion of the text message Hannity sent to Meadows on Jan. 6, in which he asked: "Can [Trump] make a statement asking people to leave the Capitol?"
Meadows previously engaged with the investigative panel by turning over documents that Cheney had characterized as "interesting and important." The committee had planned to ask him about the documents in a deposition scheduled for last Wednesday, but his lawyer told lawmakers the night beforehand that Meadows was refusing to participate.
The committee’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Monday in a statement before the vote: "It comes down to this: Mr. Meadows started by doing the right thing—cooperating. He handed over records that he didn’t try to shield behind some excuse. But in an investigation like ours, that’s just a first step. When the records raise questions—as these most certainly do—you have to come in and answer those questions. And when it was time for him to follow the law, come in, and testify on those questions, he changed his mind and told us to pound sand. He didn’t even show up."
The committee released a report over the weekend recommending that the House proceed with a contempt charge. The report detailed meetings and calls Meadows took part in to help Trump reverse his election defeat, including a call with Trump and state and federal officials on Jan. 2 "to discuss overturning certain states’ electoral college results." Meadows "later sent the former vice president’s staff a memo drafted by a Trump campaign lawyer urging the vice president to delay or decline the counting of votes from certain states," the report said.
The report also referred to an email Meadows is alleged to have sent on Jan. 5 saying National Guard troops would keep Trump’s supporters safe the next day.
“Mr. Meadows sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to 'protect pro Trump people' and that many more would be available on standby,” the report said. The recipient was not identified.
An attorney for Meadows did not respond to a request for comment.
Meadows' lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III, sent a letter earlier Monday asking the committeenot to proceed with the contempt vote, saying it would be "contrary to law" because Meadows is making "a good-faith invocation of executive privilege and testimonial immunity."
The letter did not address why executive privilege should apply to an official from a previous administration when the sitting president is not invoking privilege — a key question in the panel's legal fight over Trump's records.
Meadows sued the committee last week, arguing that it did not have the authority to force him to talk and that its subpoenas were "overly broad" and "unduly burdensome."
Thompson and Cheney responded in a joint statement, saying the "flawed lawsuit won’t succeed at slowing down the Select Committee’s investigation or stopping us from getting the information we’re seeking.”
The day before he failed to appear, Meadows' book recounting his time as Trump's chief of staff went on sale. In it, he downplays the riot that disrupted the counting of the electoral vote and led to over 700 arrests as the work of "a handful of fanatics."
"Why he can discuss Jan 6 in a book but not with Congress is inexplicable," Schiff tweeted in response.
Thompson made a similar point in a letter to Meadows' lawyer. "That he would sell his telling of the facts of that day while denying a congressional committee the opportunity to ask him about the attack on our Capitol marks an historic and aggressive defiance of Congress," he wrote.
Meadows had originally been scheduled to appear before the committee on Nov. 12, but he did not show up. He began re-engaging with the panel after it threatened to pursue a contempt charge and after the Justice Department acted on the House's referral of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Bannon has been charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for spurning the committee's subpoenas for documents and testimony. He pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in July.
Unlike Bannon, Meadows turned over some documents, including a Nov. 6, 2020, text exchange with a member of Congress that appeared to be "about appointing alternate electors in certain states as part of a plan that the Member acknowledged would be 'highly controversial' and to which Mr. Meadows apparently said, 'I love it,'" Thompson's letter said.
In an interview last Tuesday on the streaming news network Real America's Voice, Meadows said he had changed his mind about appearing for the deposition the next day, saying the committee intended to ask about topics that he considered protected by executive privilege.
"In addition, we found that in spite of our cooperation and sharing documents with them, they had issued, unbeknownst to us and not without even a courtesy call, issued a subpoena to a third-party carrier trying to get information," he said. "And so at this point, we, we feel like it's best that we just continue to honor the executive privilege, and it looks like the courts are going to have to weigh in on this."
A committee aide said the panel has sought and obtained data from telecommunications companies that "will help answer important questions," adding, "These requests to not include the content of any communication or location information but simply deal with the dates and times that communications took place.”
In a statement last week, Thompson and Cheney said the panel needed to hear from Meadows "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 contempt referral is the panel's third. It also voted to refer former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, but it has not moved to finalize the measure because Clark has agreed to be deposed. He is scheduled to appear before the committee Thursday.
If the House votes to hold Meadows in contempt, a referral would be forwarded to the Justice Department, which would decide whether to proceed.