House votes to hold Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress over Jan. 6 probe dispute

Lawmakers have been reading aloud from text messages he received about Jan. 6.

December 14, 2021, 11:16 PM

The House voted Tuesday night to hold former President Donald Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack to appear for a deposition.

The vote was 222-208, with GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Liz Cheney of Wyoming voting with all Democrats.

Meadows is now the first former lawmaker ever held in criminal contempt by Congress -- and the first held in contempt since 1832 -- when former Rep. Sam Houston was held in contempt for beating a colleague with a cane.

The vote sends the matter to the Justice Department, which will determine whether to bring any charges against Meadows, after previously doing so against Trump ally Steve Bannon.

During debate on the floor Tuesday evening, and earlier in the day, in the House Rules Committee, members of the Jan. 6 select committee released new text messages from the tranche of records Meadows had turned over to the committee.

"I heard Jeff Clark is getting put in on Monday. That's amazing. It will make a lot of patriots happy, and I'm personally so proud that you are at the tip of the spear, and I could call you a friend," a text to Meadows from an unknown number read, according to Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

The new messages further underscored Meadows's importance to the congressional investigation, as a key figure in Trump's orbit who personally participated in discussions about challenging the election results and advocated for voter fraud investigations from his perch in the West Wing.

"Mr. Meadows's 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?" Cheney, the panel's vice-chair, said Tuesday.

On Jan. 3, Meadows told an unnamed member of Congress that Trump "thinks the legislatures have the power but that the Vp has power too," according to Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., who read the message about the counting of the electoral votes on the House floor.

On Nov. 4th, an unnamed member of Congress texted Meadows that Republican-led legislatures should "just send their own electors to Congress" to challenge the official results in key states, and allow the Supreme Court to determine how to award the votes and the winner of the election.

Lawmakers on the panel argued that Meadows, despite his deference to Trump's alleged claims of executive privilege, was improperly refusing to appear under subpoena to discuss topics referenced in the materials he already shared with Congress or mentioned in his new memoir.

Meadows turned over some 9,000 documents from personal email accounts and a cell phone to the committee, including urgent text messages from Republican lawmakers imploring him to get Trump to something to stop the violence.

But he then reversed course and refused to appear under subpoena to answer questions about the records he provided.

During Monday's committee meeting, before members voted unanimously to recommend Meadows be held in contempt, Cheney quoted extensively from text messages sent to Meadows during the riot from Fox News hosts, GOP lawmakers and Donald Trump Jr., the former president's eldest son.

Cheney said the messages left "no doubt" the White House "knew exactly what was happening" at the Capitol during the riot.

"He's got to condemn [the riot] ASAP," Trump Jr. told Meadows in a text message, according to Cheney, saying that Trump's tweet about Capitol Police "is not enough."

"I'm pushing it hard," Meadows replied. "I agree."

"We need an Oval Office address," Trump Jr. said in a follow up message. "He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand."

"Please get him on tv," Fox News host Brian Kilmeade wrote to Meadows. "Destroying everything you have accomplished."

PHOTO: White House chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters outside the White House, Oct. 26, 2020, in Washington.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters outside the White House, Oct. 26, 2020, in Washington.
Patrick Semansky/AP, FILE

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., read aloud from text messages Meadows received from unnamed GOP lawmakers before and after the riot.

"Yesterday was a terrible day," one wrote. "We tried everything we could in our objection to the 6 states. I'm sorry nothing worked."

Cheney quoted again from text messages Tuesday morning.

"It is really bad up here on the Hill," one message read.

In another, an unnamed lawmaker texted Meadows: "Fix this now."

"We need to question him about emails and texts he has given us without any claims of privilege," Cheney said.

Commitee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Tuesday that "only three people" of "over 300" have not cooperated with the committee. He shared that Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is among those scheduled to cooperate and speak to investigators.

"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," Thompson said.

Republicans for the most part defended Meadows and suggested the committee's push to hold Meadows in contempt would squander any chance they had to secure his cooperation.

"Today they are destroying executive privilege," Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said on the House floor. "It is a vote to put a good man in prison."

In a statement Tuesday, Meadows attorney George Terwilliger said his client "never stopped cooperating" with the panel. "What message does that duplicity send to him as well as to others who might be inclined to consider cooperating in good faith to the extent possible?"

Democrats and Republicans aligned with the committee blasted Meadows' argument, pointing to the fact that he published a memoir detailing conversations with Trump around Jan. 6.

"This is a witness who is refusing to comply with the law," Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said. "But look at his book and you get more information than our committee did."

Trump ally Steve Bannon was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for rebuffing the committee's subpoenas and has pleaded not guilty. That trial is scheduled to begin in July 2022.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events