Thompson & Cheney Testimony at Rules Committee Meeting

Dec 14, 2021

- As Delivered -

Washington—Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) this morning delivered the following statements at the Rules Committee meeting on the resolution recommending that the House of Representatives find Mark Randall Meadows in contempt of Congress:

Chairman Thompson: “Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Cole, members of the committee: thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

“This is an unfortunate situation we’re dealing with today—particularly because it deals with a former colleague—and that situation has been made worse by the amount of dust that’s been kicked up to try to distract us from the facts. So let me spell out those facts.

“The Select Committee sought records and testimony from Mr. Meadows because we believed that he had information relevant to our investigation. He reportedly participated in or witnessed events that are the focus of our work. So, on September 23rd, we issued a subpoena for documents and his testimony. After weeks of back-and-forth with his lawyer, evidenced in the letters we made public with our Report, we set a November 12th date for his appearance at a deposition. At that point, he hadn’t produced any records. And when the time came, he didn’t even show up.

“We signaled at that time that we were prepared to move forward with contempt proceedings, but we also gave Mr. Meadows a final opportunity to reverse course. We set another deposition for December 8th, and Mr. Meadows initially agreed to provide testimony.  

“Now, throughout this process, Mr. Meadows’s attorney has raised claims of executive privilege and so-called absolute immunity—the idea that individuals who hold or held certain positions have no obligation whatsoever to appear before Congress when called. We don’t accept those claims. President Biden hasn’t asserted executive privilege or absolute immunity regarding Mr. Meadows’s testimony. And all the courts that have considered claims of absolute immunity have rejected them. 

“But all that discussion about different privileges is a distraction. That’s not what this contempt referral is primarily about. This referral centers on the information that even Mr. Meadows and his attorney say is outside all those claims of privilege. He provided roughly 9,000 pages of records that he and his attorney freely admit cannot be held back by any sort of privilege claim. They gave us a lot of information.

“His participation in a January phone call aimed at pressuring state legislators to overturn election results. That’s not protected by executive privilege.

“His communications with the Georgia Secretary of State regarding efforts to disrupt the election. That’s not protected.

“The list goes on and on. And while the records he handed over gave us valuable information, they also raised a lot of questions. And then, the day before he was scheduled to appear for his deposition, he changed his mind. He said he was through cooperating with our probe. He refused to come in and answer questions about the non-privileged material. He has no basis to refuse to cooperate on those matters. That alone is sufficient to advance this referral.

“But for the sake of argument, let’s talk about Mr. Meadows’s privilege assertions. The Select Committee isn’t able to assess whether Mr. Meadows is making those assertions in good faith because he won’t even come in and address them on a question-by-question basis as he’s required. I have my view of whether he’s made these claims in good faith, because I’ve seen him on television, talking about his conversations with the President and promoting his book.

“I understand that this is a difficult matter. I have no great desire to be here seeking consideration of this contempt referral. Mr. Meadows was a colleague for more than seven years. But that doesn’t excuse his behavior. If anything, his time as a member of the House should make him more aware of the potential consequences of defying a congressional subpoena.

“We’ve given Mr. Meadows every opportunity to cooperate with our investigation. We’ve been more than fair. He’s brought this situation on himself. But there is no doubt in my mind that he’s in contempt of Congress and has to be held accountable.

“I thank you once again. I look forward to your questions. And I yield back.

* * *

Vice Chair Cheney: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member Cole, and all the members of the Committee.

“As the Chairman said, it gives us no pleasure to be here again, and to be here dealing with the recommended referral of criminal contempt of a former colleague of ours. We understand it’s a serious matter, and it’s a step we wouldn’t be taking if it weren’t necessary.

“We don’t take it lightly. And we hoped we would not have to be here at all. As the Chairman noted, we’d engaged in weeks and weeks of discussion with Mr. Meadows’ counsel. We’d worked very diligently to try to reach agreement on cooperation. We’d scheduled a deposition at a time and a day of Mr. Meadows’ choosing.

“But shortly before the deposition was to occur, Mr. Meadows walked away from his commitment to appear, and he informed us he would no longer cooperate. As the Chairman noted, we think Mr. Meadows is improperly asserting executive and other privileges. But this contempt proceeding relates principally to Mr. Meadows’ refusal to testify about the text messages and other communications he admits are not privileged. He has not claimed, and doesn’t have any privilege basis, to refuse to answer our questions about these texts and about these topics.

“I’m just going to talk about three areas that are critically important to our investigation about which Mr. Meadows has turned over materials that are non-privileged and about which he is compelled to answer our questions.

“As the violence was underway on the 6th, it was evident to all, but we know that for 187 minutes, President Trump refused to act. And he refused to act when his action was required, it was essential, and it was compelled by his duty, compelled by his oath of office.

“Mr. Meadows received numerous text messages that he has produced without any privilege claim – urging President Trump to take action. I read a number of those last night to the nation. Here are a few others from Republican Members.

“’It’s really bad up here on the hill.’

“Another one, ’The President needs to stop this asap.’

“Another one, ‘Fix this now.’

“And as we saw last night dozens of texts, including from Trump administration officials, from members of the press, from Donald Trump, Jr. urged immediate action by the President.

“But we know hours passed with no action by the President to defend the Congress of the United States from an assault while we were trying to count electoral votes, which was an official proceeding.

“This brings up another point. Mr. Meadows’ testimony will bear on a key question in front of this Committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes? Mr. Meadows’ testimony will inform our legislative judgments on those issues. 

“But Mr. Meadows has refused to give any testimony at all – even regarding non-privileged topics. That puts him in contempt of Congress.

“And let me pause and just note that we as Republicans used to be unified on this point in terms of what happened on January 6th and the responsibility the president had to stop it. We all remember, every one of us, what Republican Leader McCarthy said on the Floor of the House the following week, ‘The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump.’ That was Republican Leader McCarthy.

“Mr. Meadows has also got knowledge regarding President Trump’s efforts to persuade state officials to alter their official election results. In Georgia, Mr. Meadows participated in a phone call between President Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger. He was on the phone when President Trump asked the Secretary of State to ‘find 11,780 votes’ to change the result of the election in Georgia.

“At the time of the call, Mr. Meadows, according to texts he has turned over, appears to have been texting at least one other participant on the call. Again, Mr. Meadows has no conceivable privilege basis to refuse to testify on that topic. And doing so puts him in contempt of Congress.

“Finally, in the weeks before January 6th, we know that President Trump’s appointees at the Justice Department told him repeatedly that his claims of election fraud were not supported by the evidence. They told him 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 the Committee that he anticipates potential criminal prosecution related to these matters, and he intends in upcoming testimony to invoke his 5th Amendment Privilege against self-incrimination. As Mr. Meadows’ non-privileged texts reveal, he was communicating multiple times with a Member of Congress - a currently serving colleague of ours - 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 precedence. There has been no stronger case in our nation’s history for a congressional investigation into the actions of a former president. We must investigate the facts in detail, and we are entitled to ask Mr. Meadows about the non-privileged materials he has produced to us.

“Any argument that the courts need to resolve privilege issues first is a pre-text. We need to question him about emails and texts he has given us without any privilege claim. His role in the Raffensperger call cannot be privileged, nor can his dealings with a member of this body regarding Jeff Clark. We must get to the objective truth and ensure that January 6th never happens again.

“I urge my colleagues to support this resolution, and I yield back.”


# # #