News World US Donald Trump Ex-Trump aide Meadows on contempt charge over Capitol riot
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Ex-Trump aide Meadows on contempt charge over Capitol riot

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Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows has been held in contempt by the US House. Photo: Getty
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The US House of Representatives has voted to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress after he ceased to cooperate with the January 6 Committee investigating the Capitol insurrection.

This is the first time the House has voted to hold a former member in contempt since the 1830s.

The near-party-line 222-208 vote is the second time the special committee has sought to punish a witness for defying a subpoena.

The vote is the latest show of force by the January 6 panel, which is leaving no angle unexplored – and no subpoena unanswered – as it investigates the worst attack on the Capitol in more than 200 years.

Lawmakers on the panel are determined to get answers quickly, and in doing so reassert the congressional authority that eroded while former president Donald Trump was in office.

The House vote sends the matter to the US attorney’s office in Washington, where it will be up to prosecutors in that office to decide whether to present the case to a grand jury for possible criminal charges.

If convicted, Mr Meadows could face up to one year behind bars on each charge.

The nine-member panel voted 9-0 on Monday night (US time) to recommend charges against the former North Carolina congressman who left in March 2020 to become Mr Trump’s chief of staff.

On Tuesday, Republicans called the action against Mr Meadows a distraction from the House’s work, with one member calling it “evil” and “un-American”.

Mr Trump has defended Mr Meadows in an interview, saying: “I think Mark should do what’s right. He’s an honourable man. He shouldn’t be put through this.”

And Mr Meadows’ lawyer George Terwilliger defended his client in a statement before the vote, noting that he had provided documents to the panel and maintaining that he should not be compelled to appear for an interview.

“The Select Committee’s true intentions in dealing with Mr Meadows have been revealed when it accuses him of contempt citing the very documents his cooperation has produced,” Mr Terwilliger said.

Mr Meadows himself has sued the panel, asking a court to invalidate two subpoenas that he says are “overly broad and unduly burdensome.”

Democrats quoted at length from January 6 text messages provided by Mr Meadows while he was cooperating with the committee.

“We need an Oval Office address,” Donald Trump Jr. texted, the committee said, as his father’s supporters were breaking into the Capitol, sending lawmakers running for their lives and interrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

“He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”

Mr Trump Jr added, “He’s got to condemn this s–t ASAP.”

In response to one of Mr Trump Jr’s texts, Mr Meadows said: “I’m pushing it hard. I agree.”

Members of the committee said the texts raised fresh questions about what was happening at the White House – and what Mr Trump himself was doing – as the attack was under way.

The committee had planned to question Mr Meadows about the communications, including 6600 pages of records taken from personal email accounts and about 2000 text messages. The panel has not released any of the communications in full.

Republican Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the panel’s vice-chairwoman, said at the committee’s Monday night meeting that an important issue raised by the texts was whether Mr Trump sought to obstruct the congressional certification by refusing to send a strong message to the rioters to stop.

“These texts leave no doubt,” Ms Cheney said.

“The White House knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol.”

The investigating 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.

-AAP