Washington, Dec 13 (EFE).- The United States Lower House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot voted Monday to seek criminal contempt of Congress charges against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for refusing to cooperate with the inquiry.
The nine-member committee, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, voted unanimously in an evening session that lasted about 45 minutes.
The citation for contempt now goes to the House of Representatives as early as Tuesday. Assuming it will be approved, given the Democratic majority, it will then go to the Justice Department to decide whether to press charges.
In the opening speech of the session, committee chair and Democrat Bennie Thompson said his patience had run out with the decision of Meadows not to cooperate.
“As White House chief of staff, Mr. Meadows played a role in or was witness to key events leading up to and including the January 6th assault on the United States Capitol,” Thompson said.
“Mr. Meadows started by doing the right thing – cooperating. He handed over records that he didn’t try to shield behind some excuse,” Thompson said. “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.”
Meadows initially agreed to help with the lawmakers’ investigation, turning over thousands of documents, but later changed his position and refused to testify, among other things.
His lawyer said referring the case to the Justice Department would be “contrary to law” because Meadows was acting in good faith to keep communications with Trump confidential under executive privilege.
On Nov. 21, far-right former Trump strategist Steve Bannon was indicted for contempt of Congress on two counts of refusing to appear for a deposition and refusing to produce documents by a federal grand jury.
If convicted, Bannon faces between 30 days and one year in prison on each charge, as well as fines of up to $100,000.
The committee investigating the Capitol assault was created by House Speaker and Democrat Nancy Pelosi, and has a Democratic majority, with the exception of two Republicans – Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger – who are at odds with Trump.
Its mission is to investigate why the riot occurred, who was responsible and what can be done to prevent another similar event. It has requested access to hitherto secret documents and has subpoenaed Trump’s closest allies, including Meadows, to testify.
On Jan. 6, some 10,000 people – most of them Trump supporters – marched to the Capitol and about 800 broke into the building to prevent the November 2020 election victory of now-president Joe Biden from being ratified. Five people died and about 140 law-enforcement officers were injured. EFE