The panel sent a criminal contempt of Congress referral to the full House, as the extent of Mark Meadows’s role in President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election became clearer.
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“Whatever legacy he thought he left in the House, this is his legacy now. His former colleagues singling him out for criminal prosecution because he wouldn’t answer questions about what he knows about a brutal attack on our democracy.” “According to the records, multiple Fox News hosts knew the president needed to act immediately. They texted Mr. Meadows, and he has turned over those texts. Quote: ‘Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home, this is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy,’ Laura Ingraham wrote. ‘Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished,’ Brian Kilmeade texted. Quote: ‘Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol?’ Sean Hannity urged. As the violence continued, one of the president’s sons texted Mr. Meadows. Quote: ‘He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough,” Donald Trump Jr. texted. Meadows responded, quote: ‘I’m pushing it hard. I agree.’ Still, President Trump did not immediately act. Chairman, I move that the committee favorably report to the House the committee’s report on a resolution recommending that the House of Representatives find Mark Randall Meadows in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol.” “Those in favor say aye.” [Together] “Aye.” “Those opposed say no.” “In opinion of the chairs, the ayes have it.”
Luke Broadwater and
WASHINGTON — Mark Meadows, the last White House chief of staff for President Donald J. Trump, played a far more substantial role in plans to try to overturn the 2020 election than was previously known, and he was involved in failed efforts to get Mr. Trump to order the mob invading the Capitol on Jan. 6 to stand down, investigators for the House committee scrutinizing the attack have learned.
From a trove of about 9,000 documents that Mr. Meadows turned over before halting his cooperation with the inquiry, a clearer picture has emerged about the extent of his involvement in Mr. Trump’s attempts to use the government to invalidate the election results.
The committee voted 9 to 0 on Monday evening to recommend that Mr. Meadows be charged with criminal contempt of Congress for defying its subpoena. Before the vote, Representative Liz Cheney, one of the leaders of the panel, added to the evidence implicating Mr. Meadows in events of Jan. 6. She read aloud text messages sent to him by the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and by the Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade urging that Mr. Trump speak out amid the mob violence.
“He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP,” the younger Mr. Trump texted Mr. Meadows, according to Ms. Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and the panel’s vice chairwoman.
“I’m pushing it hard,” Mr. Meadows responded. “I agree.”
In another message, the younger Mr. Trump implored Mr. Meadows: “We need an Oval address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
Ms. Ingraham sent her own plea. “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” she wrote to Mr. Meadows, adding, “He is destroying his legacy.”
Ms. Cheney also quoted panicked text messages from unnamed people who were in the building, including one who told Mr. Meadows, “We are under siege up here at the Capitol.”
“These text messages leave no doubt,” Ms. Cheney said. “The White House knew exactly what was happening here at the Capitol.”
The committee voted to recommend that Mr. Meadows be charged with criminal contempt of Congress after the former chief of staff shifted from partially participating in the inquiry to waging a full-blown legal fight against the committee, in line with Mr. Trump’s directive to stonewall the investigation.
A contempt of Congress charge carries a penalty of up to a year in jail. The panel’s recommendation sends the matter to the full House, which could vote as early as Tuesday to refer the charge to the Justice Department.
The committee found that Mr. Meadows, a former congressman from North Carolina who led the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, essentially served as Mr. Trump’s right-hand man throughout various steps of the effort to undermine the 2020 election. Mr. Meadows encouraged members of Congress to object to Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, and he pursued baseless allegations of voter fraud in several states, according to the panel.
In addition, Mr. Meadows personally coordinated with rally planners who brought throngs of Mr. Trump’s supporters to Washington on Jan. 6 to protest the president’s election loss, and Mr. Meadows said he would line up the National Guard to protect them, according to documents he provided to the panel.
At one point, an organizer of the rally turned to Mr. Meadows for help, telling him that things “have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction. Please.”
It is not clear how he responded. The exchanges suggest that Mr. Meadows — who at times expressed personal skepticism about the claims of election fraud and theft pushed by Mr. Trump and his allies — catered to Mr. Trump by seeking evidence to support the president’s allegations. Mr. Meadows was in contact with a broad collection of obscure characters whose sometimes zany plans and theories made their way into the White House at a critical time.
Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee investigating the Capitol attack, called it “jarring” that Mr. Meadows would stop cooperating with the panel, given that he served in Congress for more than seven years.
“It’s not hard to locate records of his time in the House and find a Mr. Meadows full of indignation because, at the time, a prior administration wasn’t cooperating with a congressional investigation to his satisfaction,” Mr. Thompson said.
Before the committee’s vote, George J. Terwilliger III, Mr. Meadows’s lawyer, called on the panel to change course, arguing that it was trampling over his client’s constitutional rights and over presidential prerogatives. Mr. Terwilliger wrote in a letter to the committee that Mr. Meadows had made a “good-faith invocation of executive privilege and testimonial immunity by a former senior executive official.”
“It would ill serve the country to rush to judgment on the matter,” Mr. Terwilliger wrote.
The committee has heard testimony from more than 300 witnesses, and additional ones are scheduled to appear this week. On three occasions, the panel has moved to hold allies of Mr. Trump in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with its subpoenas.
“It comes down to this: Mr. Meadows started by doing the right thing — cooperating,” Mr. Thompson said. “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.”
Before he stopped cooperating, Mr. Meadows turned over documents that he said were not privileged, but which shed considerable light on his activities in the wake of Mr. Trump’s election defeat.
As supporters of Mr. Trump strategized about ways to keep him in power, Mr. Meadows encouraged and guided members of Congress on steps they could take to try to overturn the election, the documents show.
The House investigation. A select committee is scrutinizing the causes of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which occurred as Congress met to formalize Joe Biden’s election victory amid various efforts to overturn the results. Here are some people and places being examined:
Donald Trump. The former president’s movement and communications on Jan. 6 appear to be a focus of the House panel’s investigation. But Mr. Trump has attempted to shield his records, invoking executive privilege. The dispute is making its way through the courts.
Mark Meadows. House investigators said that Mr. Trump’s chief of staff played a far more substantial role in plans to try to overturn the election than was previously known. The House voted to recommend holding Mr. Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress for defying the panel’s subpoena.
The PowerPoint document. The committee is scrutinizing a PowerPoint document of unknown origin filled with extreme plans to overturn the election. Mr. Meadows received the document in an email from an unknown sender and turned it over to the panel before he stopped cooperating.
Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade. The Fox News anchors texted Mr. Meadows during the Jan. 6 riot urging him to persuade Mr. Trump to make an effort to stop it. The texts were part of the material that Mr. Meadows had turned over to the panel.
Steve Bannon. The former Trump aide has been charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena, claiming protection under executive privilege even though he was an outside adviser. His trial is scheduled for next summer.
Jeffrey Clark. The little-known official repeatedly pushed his colleagues at the Justice Department to help Mr. Trump undo his loss. The panel has recommended that Mr. Clark be held in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with its inquiry.
The Willard Hotel. What unfolded at the five-star hotel near the White House before the riot has become a prime focus of the panel, which is pressing for answers about gatherings of Mr. Trump’s allies who were involved in the effort to overturn the election.
“Yes,” he wrote in one message about appointing a slate of pro-Trump electors and refusing to certify Mr. Biden’s victory. “Have a team on it.”
When Mr. Trump needed someone to inspect an audit of the vote counting in Georgia or to encourage an investigation into the election in Arizona, he dispatched Mr. Meadows, who dutifully tried to carry out the president’s plans to try to undermine the election.
Mr. Meadows’s refusal to sit for an interview with the committee comes as he is promoting his new book, “The Chief’s Chief,” on television. The book contains details of White House conversations and interactions with the president.
“Mr. Meadows has shown his willingness to talk about issues related to the select committee’s investigation across a variety of media platforms — anywhere, it seems, except to the select committee,” the panel wrote in a report released on Sunday night.
The panel said it also had questions about Mr. Meadows’s use of a personal cellphone, a Signal account and two personal Gmail accounts for government business, and whether he had properly turned over records from those accounts to the National Archives.
The emails that Mr. Meadows provided to the committee showed that he discussed encouraging state legislators to appoint slates of pro-Trump electors instead of the Biden electors chosen by the voters. They also show that he encouraged Justice Department investigations of unfounded claims of voter fraud, and that he promised the National Guard would be present at the Capitol on Jan. 6 to “protect pro-Trump people.”
The committee is also scrutinizing a 38-page PowerPoint document containing plans to overturn Mr. Biden’s victory. That document, which Mr. Meadows provided to the committee, included a call for Mr. Trump to declare a national emergency, and it promoted an unsupported claim that China and Venezuela had obtained control over the voting infrastructure in a majority of states.
Mr. Meadows’s lawyer has said his client had nothing to do with the document.
Mr. Meadows could now find himself facing a criminal charge similar to another of Mr. Trump’s associates, Stephen K. Bannon, who was indicted by a federal grand jury after the House voted to recommend that he be found in contempt for refusing to cooperate with the committee. His trial is scheduled for next summer.
One by one on Monday, members of the committee assailed Mr. Meadows for refusing to share what he knew about what unfolded on Jan. 6. They said the text messages he provided made it clear that he could shed light on what Mr. Trump was doing and saying at critical times that day.
Mr. Hannity was among those who contacted Mr. Meadows on Jan. 6, urging the president to speak out.
“Can he make a statement?” the television host wrote. “Ask people to leave the Capitol.”
On Jan. 7, Mr. Meadows received a text from an unnamed lawmaker who apologized for failing to overturn Mr. Trump’s loss.
“Yesterday was a terrible day,” the lawmaker wrote. “We tried everything we could in our objection to the 6 states. I’m sorry nothing worked.”