Thompson & Cheney Opening Statements at Select Committee Business Meeting

Dec 13, 2021

- As Delivered -

Washington—Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) this evening delivered the following statements at a business meeting during which the Select Committee adopted a report recommending that the House of Representatives cite Mark Randall Meadows for criminal contempt of Congress:

Chairman Thompson: “I will now recognize myself for an opening statement.

“Before I start my statement, let me on behalf of the Committee, add our condolences and prayers to the people of Kentucky and surrounding states on the devastation they’ve received during the tornadoes. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those impacted.

“This week, I expect that roughly a dozen key witnesses will provide testimony on the record in our investigation. We’ll hear from many more informally as we continue to gather facts about the violence of January 6th and its causes.

“That should put us well north of the 300 mark in terms of witnesses who have given us information. Add to that more than 30,000 records, and nearly 250 substantive tips on our tip line—and anyone listening at home tonight, if you have any information you want to share with us, you can find our tip line on the Select Committee’s website:

“The Court of Appeals here in Washington has ruled, quickly, in our favor regarding the Select Committee’s work to uncover relevant information. And day to day, we’re getting a clearer picture of what happened, who was involved, who paid for it, and where the money went.

“So I’m pleased to report we’re making swift progress. And before too long, our findings will be out in the open. We will have public hearings. We will tell this story to the American people. But we won’t do it piecemeal. We’ll do it when we can tell the story all at once, from start to finish, not leave anyone guessing and not allowing it to fade into the memories of last week’s news. This story is too important. The stakes are too high. We have to do this job right.

“And that means we have to address the handful of outliers soberly and appropriately. That’s why we’re here this evening. 

“The Select Committee’s report referring Mr. Meadows for criminal contempt charges is clear and compelling. 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. Don’t let lawsuits or op-eds about executive privilege by Mr. Meadows or his representatives confuse you.

“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’s 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.

“Now, this happened the same day his book was published. The same book that goes into detail about matters the Select Committee is reviewing. It also details conversations he had with President Trump and others—conversations we want to hear more about. He had also appeared on national television discussing the events of January 6th. He has no credible excuse for stonewalling the Select Committee’s investigation.

“We did receive another letter today from Mr. Meadows’s attorney, asking that we not hold his client in criminal contempt. Without objection, that letter will be made part of the record. 

“A small group of people have gotten a lot of attention because of their defiance. But many others have taken a different path and provided important information about January 6 and the context in which the riot occurred. Anyone who wants to cooperate with our investigation can do so. Nearly everyone has.

“Our democracy was inches from ruin. Our system of government was stretched to the breaking point. Members and staff were terrorized. Police officers fought hand to hand for hours. People lost their lives.

“The Select Committee recently toured the Capitol, and saw firsthand what our brave Capitol Police had to endure and heard them say, had it not been for the Metropolitan Police’s timely arrival, the rioters would have succeeded. God only knows what the outcome would have been if that had occurred.

“We want to figure out why and share that information with the American people. And either you’re on the side of helping us figure out why, or you’re trying to stop us from getting those answers. You can parade out whatever argument you want, but really, that’s all there is to it.

“In real life, there aren’t a lot of bright-line moments. This is one of them.

“And if you’re listening at home, Mr. Meadows, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Clark, I want you to know this: history will be written about these times, about the work this Committee has undertaken. And history will not look upon any of you as a martyr. History will not look upon you as a victim.

“History will not dwell on your long list of privilege claims or your legal sleight of hand. 

History will record that in a critical moment in our democracy, most people were on the side of finding the truth, of providing accountability, of strengthening our system for future generations. 

“And history will also record, in this critical moment, that some people were not. That some people hid behind excuses, went to great lengths to avoid answering questions and explaining what they had done and what they knew. I predict that history won’t be kind to those people.

“What’s especially jarring about the referral we’re considering tonight is that Mr. Meadows was a member of this body for more than seven years. He was a leading voice in certain corners, even, briefly, the Ranking Member of the Oversight and Reform Committee. 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.

“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. That’s his legacy.

“But he hasn’t left us any choice. Mr. Meadows put himself in this situation and he must now accept the consequences. So I will support the Select Committee’s adoption of this report, recommending that the House cite Mark Randall Meadows for contempt of Congress and refer him to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

“I’ll now yield to a distinguished leader on the Select Committee, Ms. Cheney of Wyoming, for any opening remarks she’d care to make.”

* * *

Vice Chair Cheney: “Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

“We are here to address a very serious matter, contempt of Congress by a former Chief of Staff to a former President of the United States. We do not do this lightly. And indeed, we had hoped not to take this step at all.

“For weeks, as the Chairman noted, we worked with Mr. Meadows’s counsel to reach an agreement on cooperation. But shortly before his scheduled deposition, Mr. Meadows walked away from his commitment to appear, and informed us he would no longer cooperate.

“We believe Mr. Meadows is improperly asserting executive and other privileges. But this vote on contempt today relates principally to Mr. Meadows’s refusal to testify about text messages and other communications that he admits are not privileged. He has not claimed, and does not have, any privilege bases to refuse entirely to testify regarding these topics.  Let me give just three examples:

“First, President Trump’s failure to stop the violence. On January 6th, our Capitol building was attacked and invaded. The mob was summoned to Washington by President Trump. And as many of those involved have admitted – on videotape, in social media, and in Federal District Court – they were provoked to violence by President Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen. 

“The violence was evident to all. It was covered in real time by almost every news channel.  But for 187 minutes, President Trump refused to act when action by our President was required, essential, and indeed compelled by his oath to our Constitution.

“Mr. Meadows received numerous text messages, which he has produced without any privilege claim – imploring that Mr. Trump take the specific action we all knew his duty required. These text messages leave no doubt. The White House knew exactly what was happening here at the Capitol. Members of Congress, the press, and others wrote to Mark Meadows as the attack was underway.

“One text Mr. Meadows received said, quote, ‘We are under siege up here at the Capitol.’

“Another, quote, ‘They have breached the Capitol.’

“In a third, ‘Mark, protestors are literally storming the Capitol. Breaking windows on doors. Rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?’

“A fourth, ‘There’s an armed standoff at the House Chamber door.’

“And another, from someone inside the Capitol, ‘We are all helpless.’

“Dozens of texts, including from Trump administration officials, urged immediate action by the President.

“Quote, ’POTUS has to come out firmly and tell protestors to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed.’

“In another, ‘Mark, he needs to stop this. Now.’

“A third, in all caps, ‘TELL THEM TO GO HOME.’

“A fourth, and I quote, ‘POTUS needs to calm this [shit] down.’          

“Indeed, 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.

“’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.

“Donald Trump, Jr. texted again and again, urging action by the President.

“Quote, ‘We need an Oval Office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand,’ end quote.

“But hours passed without the necessary action by the President.

“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’s official proceeding to count electoral votes? Mark Meadows testimony is necessary to inform our legislative judgments.          

“Yet he has refused to give any testimony at all—even regarding non-privileged topics.  He is in contempt of Congress.     

“Mr. Meadows also has knowledge regarding President Trump’s efforts to persuade state officials to alter their official election results. In Georgia, for instance, Mr. Meadows participated on a phone call between President Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Raffensberger.

“Meadows was on the phone when President Trump asked the Secretary of State to quote, ‘find 11, 780 votes’ to change the result of the presidential election in Georgia. We know from the texts Mr. Meadows has turned over, that at the time of that call, he appears to have been texting other participants on the call. Again, Mr. Meadows has no conceivable privilege basis to refuse to testify on this topic. He is in contempt of Congress.

“Third, in the weeks before January 6th, President Trump’s appointees at the Justice Department informed him repeatedly that the President’s claims of election fraud were not supported by the evidence, and that the election was not, in fact, stolen.

“President Trump intended to appoint Jeffrey Clark as Attorney General, in part so that Mr. Clark could alter the Department of Justice’s conclusions regarding the election. Mr. Clark has now informed this Committee that he anticipates potential criminal prosecution related to these matters and intends in upcoming testimony to invoke his 5th Amendment Privilege against self-incrimination.

“As Mr. Meadows’s non-privileged texts reveal, Meadows communicated multiple times with a member of Congress who was working with Mr. Clark. Mr. Meadows has no basis to refuse to testify regarding those communications. He is in contempt.

“January 6th was without precedent. There has been no stronger case in our nation’s history for a congressional investigation into the actions of a former president. This investigation is not like other congressional inquiries. Our Constitution, the structure of our institutions and the rule of law, which are at the heart of what makes America great, are at stake. We cannot be satisfied with incomplete answers, or half-truths, and we cannot surrender to President Trump’s efforts to hide what happened. We will be persistent, professional, and non-partisan. And we will get to the objective truth to ensure that January 6th never happens again.”

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