Thompson & Cheney Remarks on Resolution Citing Mark Randall Meadows in Contempt of Congress
- As Delivered -
Washington—Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) this afternoon delivered the following statements in the House of Representatives before the House voted on a resolution citing Mark Randall Meadows in contempt of Congress:
Chairman Thompson: “Madam Speaker, it’s regrettable that we’re back to the floor considering another criminal contempt referral. But our former colleague, Mr. Meadows, has left us no choice.
“The Select Committee is investigating an attack on our democracy, and it’s essential that witnesses cooperate with our investigation to get answers. The law requires them to do so. And when a witness defies the law, that amounts to more than obstructing our investigation. It’s an attack on the rule of law.
“In September, the Select Committee subpoenaed Mr. Meadows for records and testimony because we believed he had information relevant to our investigation.
“For weeks, we went back and forth with Mr. Meadows, through his lawyer, to try to get cooperation. We extended his initial deposition date to November 12th. When that date came, he hadn’t produced any documents, and he didn’t show up. Throughout this time, Mr. Meadows and his representatives made a lot of noise about executive privilege and so-called absolute immunity—the idea that people who serve or served in certain senior roles are completely exempt from testifying before Congress.
“Now let’s be clear. Courts have rejected absolute immunity at every opportunity and the Justice Department has never authored an opinion that would support that sort of claim Mr. Meadows has made about his unofficial conduct. And we have lots of questions for Mr. Meadows about the unofficial conduct. And as for executive privilege, President Biden has chosen not to invoke it as far as Mr. Meadows is concerned.
“So Mr. Meadows was obligated to comply with our subpoena and appear at a deposition. When he didn’t, we were prepared at that point to move ahead with contempt proceedings. But at the same time, Madam Speaker, out of an abundance of fairness, we gave Mr. Meadows a final chance to cooperate.
“When he faced the possibility of contempt a few weeks ago, he finally decided, in part, to do the right thing and start providing information. He turned over roughly 9,000 pages of records that he himself said couldn’t be covered by any claim of privilege. He also said he would appear at a deposition with the Select Committee, which we scheduled for December 8th.
“This is key. In an investigation like ours, when you produce records, you are expected to come in and answer questions about those records. And because not even Mr. Meadows was asserting any privilege claim over these records, there’s no possible justification for wholesale refusing to answer questions about them.
“But that’s not what he did. He told us the day before his deposition—the same day his book was published—that he would no longer cooperate with our investigation, and that he wasn’t coming in to be interviewed.
“Put all the other arguments aside. This isn’t about any sort of privilege or immunity. This is about Mr. Meadows refusing to comply with a subpoena to discuss the records he himself turned over. Now he’s hiding behind excuses.
“And at the end of the day, it’s a simple proposition: if you’re making excuses to avoid cooperating with our investigation, you’re making excuses to hide the truth from the American people about what happened on January 6th. You’re making excuses as part of a coverup. And if you echo these excuses, if you base your argument on those excuses, if you adopt those excuses as your own to explain why you won’t take action, then you’re part of that coverup too.
“I want my colleagues to think long and hard about that. Because as the Select Committee has made clear in the last day and will continue to make clear, there was a steady stream of communication between certain members of Congress and Mr. Meadows about matters central to our investigation. We have questions about those communications. We will pursue those questions. And we won’t let the facts be buried by a coverup.
“Thank you, Madam Speaker. I reserve the balance of my time.”
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Vice Chair Cheney: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, as Chairman Thompson noted, we are here with great sadness. We are here recognizing and understanding the serious nature of the situation.
“And Madam Speaker, we wish we had another alternative. We wish that we did not have to meet today to urge our colleagues to vote criminal contempt for one of our former colleagues and the former Chief of Staff to President Trump.
“We don't take this step lightly, as my colleagues have noted and will no doubt say again today, for weeks, the Committee has worked with Mr. Meadows, with his counsel, to reach an agreement on cooperation, to reach an agreement, an accommodation. Now, the reality, Madam Speaker, is the accommodations process is a process that takes place between the legislative branch and the executive branch.
“Mr. Meadows is a member of neither. And yet, the Committee has taken the extra step of working to try to make sure that we do everything we can to secure Mr. Meadows’ testimony. He is improperly asserting executive and other privileges, but the vote on contempt today relates principally to his refusal to testify about messages and other communications that he admits are not privileged.
“He has not claimed and he does not have privilege to refuse entirely to testify regarding these topics. There are just three examples I will give you this afternoon of issues which we need to talk to Mr. Meadows about and on which his testimony is required, indeed compelled, by our subpoena.
“First is President Trump's failure to stop the violence when this chamber and indeed the entire Capitol building was attacked and invaded. The mob that attacked this chamber 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.
“As the violence unfolded that afternoon, nearly one year ago, it was evident to all, not only to those of us who were in the chamber at that time. It was covered in real time by almost every news channel.
“But for 187 minutes, President Trump refused to act. Let's let that sink in, Madam Speaker. He refused to act when action by our president was required, it was essential, and it was 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 know his duty required. Indeed, some of those text messages, Madam Speaker, came from members in the chamber right now. Members who understood that a violent assault was underway at the Capitol, Members who pleaded with the chief of staff to get the president to take action.
“Dozens of texts, including from Trump administration officials and members of Congress, urged that the president take immediate action. I read a number of these last night at our hearing. I won't read them all today, but I will read a few of them.
“’Mark,’ one member said, ‘he needs to stop this now.’
“In all caps, ‘TELL THEM TO GO HOME.’
“’POTUS has to come out firmly and tell the protesters to dissipate, someone is going to get killed.’
“Indeed, a number of members of the press, a number of members of this body, a member of the president's own family, all urged the president take action because they understood that the President of the United States had a responsibility to call off the mob. Hours passed, despite this, without any action by the president. All of these texts are non privileged, they are texts that Mr. Meadows has turned over. And they are evidence of President Trump's supreme dereliction of duty for 187 minutes.
“And Mr. Meadows’ testimony will bear on another fundamental question before this Committee, and that is whether Donald J. Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly sought to obstruct or impede Congress's official proceeding to count electoral votes. This Committee is entitled to Mr. Meadows’ testimony and it will inform our legislative judgments. But Mr. Meadows has refused to give any testimony at all, even regarding non-privileged topics. He is in contempt of Congress.
“Second, Mr. Meadows has knowledge regarding President Trump's efforts to persuade state officials to alter official election results. In Georgia, for instance, Mr. Meadows participated in a phone call between President Trump and the Georgia Secretary of State. Mr. Meadows was actually on the phone when President Trump asked the Secretary of State to “find 11,780 votes” to change the results of the presidential election in Georgia.
“That's the President of the United States telling a state official to ‘find 11,780 votes.’ While this was happening, Mr. Meadows appears to have been texting with another participant on this call. 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 therefore intends in upcoming testimony to invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
“As Mr. Meadows' non-privileged checks reveal, Mr. Meadows communicated multiple times with another member of this body 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 body must investigate the facts in detail, and we are entitled to ask Mr. Meadows about the non-privileged materials he has produced to us.
“Madam Speaker, I am sure you will hear my colleagues this afternoon say that there are privileged issues here that must be resolved before we can move forward. Any argument that the courts need to resolve privilege issues first is a pretext. We will question Mr. Meadows about e-mails and texts he gave us without any privilege claim. Mr. Meadows' role in the Raffensperger call cannot be privileged, nor can his dealings with a member of this body regarding Jeff Clark.
“This Committee must get to the objective truth and ensure that January 6th never happens again. Mr. Meadows is in contempt. He must testify. And I urge my colleagues to vote yes on this resolution. And I reserve the balance of my time.”
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