The House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to hold Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The matter will now move to the Justice Department, which will decide whether to charge Trump’s former chief of staff. The more significant question, however, is to what extent the push to hold Meadows accountable will even matter as Republicans continue their work to subvert democracy.
The vote comes a day after the committee voted unanimously to advance contempt proceedings against Meadows, who was deeply enmeshed in the administration’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. His involvement in those efforts has been revealed with damning clarity since his decision to stonewall the committee last week, a move that came after he’d already agreed to cooperate and turned over thousands of pages of documents.
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The committee has divulged several details from this material as part of its week-long push to hold Meadows in contempt. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the ranking Republican on the committee, on Monday night read text messages Meadows received from prominent Fox News personalities Donald Trump, Jr., and those inside the Capitol urging him to get Trump to quell the violence at the Capitol. Cheney said those text messages and others Meadows turned over to the committee leave “no doubt” that the White House “knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol.” The committee voted unanimously to advance contempt proceeds, setting up Tuesday’s House-wide vote.
The committee’s vote on Monday came a day after it released a sprawling report laying out the case to hold Meadows in contempt. The report, based largely on the material Meadows provided to the committee, detailed how Meadows discussed appointing pro-Trump electors in states Biden won, how he tried to put Trump in touch with state legislators who had the power to make this happen, how he pressured the Justice Department to investigate bogus allegations of voter fraud, how he texted organizers of the rally that preceded the riot at the Capitol, how he said that the National Guard would be at the Capitol on Jan. 6 to “protect pro-Trump people,” and more.
Rolling Stone reported on Monday that some rally organizers brought concerns of potential violence to Meadows, and were left with the impression Meadows would resolve the issue. A spokesman for Meadows declined to comment.
Some of what the committee’s report detailed was hinted at last week in a letter the committee wrote informing Meadows that he left it with “no choice” but to move to hold him in contempt. The letter noted that Meadows wrote, “I love it,” in response to a “highly controversial” plan to replace state electors put forth by an unnamed member of Congress in the days following the election. The plan was referred to in messages as a “direct and collateral attack” aimed at overturning the election results. The letter also included a mention of a PowerPoint presentation titled “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN” that was mentioned in one of Meadows’ emails. The presentation was later revealed to include a suggestion that Trump should declare a national security emergency in order to delay the certification of the election results. The Washington Post reported that the retired Army colonel who disseminated a version of the plan said he met with Meadows several times prior to Jan. 6, and multiple outlets reported that he or his team also briefed members of Congress.
This is all to say that calling Meadows a figure of interest in the committee’s work to uncover what happened on Jan. 6 would be a gross understatement. He was clearly at the center of a very serious, very “direct,” as his emails put it, attack on the democratic process. In his orbit were an untold number of Republican lawmakers who were doing all they could to assist the administration’s efforts to overturn the results of the election. One of the most telling text messages read by the committee on Monday night came from a lawmaker who was disappointed not at the violent breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6, but at his party’s inability to stop the certification of a free and fair election. “Yesterday was a terrible day,” the lawmaker wrote to Meadows, according to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). “We tried everything we could in our objection to the 6 states. I’m sorry nothing worked.”
Meadows is the second Trumpworld figure the House has voted to hold in contempt for refusing to cooperate with the committee’s investigation. The chamber in October voted in favor of a resolution to hold Steve Bannon in contempt, with all but nine Republicans deeming that he shouldn’t have to comply with the committee. The Justice Department charged Bannon with two counts of criminal contempt a few weeks later.
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