Meadows, Patel engaging with Jan. 6 committee as Bannon faces possible contempt referral

By | October 8, 2021

Two close allies of former President Donald Trump — former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Pentagon aide Kash Patel — are “engaging with” the Jan. 6 select committee on its subpoena, the panel’s top two lawmakers said Friday.

Panel chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) confirmed in a statement that the two Trump associates had been in touch with the panel. Thompson and Cheney also threatened criminal contempt for former Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon, who had informed the committee he wouldn’t cooperate with their inquiry into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

“Though the Select Committee welcomes good-faith engagement with witnesses seeking to cooperate with our investigation, we will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral,” Thompson and Cheney said.

A lawyer for Bannon, Robert Costello, told the committee on Thursday that Bannon would refuse to comply because of Trump’s claim that he can invoke executive privilege to block Bannon’s testimony.

“Until these issues are resolved, we are unable to respond to your request for documents and testimony,” Costello wrote to the Jan. 6 committee. Costello’s letter was first reported by The New York Times; POLITICO reported on Thursday that Trump had instructed Bannon and other former aides subpoenaed by the select panel not to comply with lawmakers’ demands.

It’s a questionable claim from Bannon’s lawyer, because the ex-Trump aide was years removed from the White House by the time the former president’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election — the subject of the committee’s subpoena — began in earnest. Executive privilege is typically reserved for a president’s closest advisers and not meant to be a broad shield for testimony requests.

Any move by the Jan. 6 committee to hold a witness in criminal contempt would first require the panel to vote on a contempt resolution. That resolution would then move to the House floor for a vote.

The select panel investigating the insurrection by Trump supporters had subpoenaed four onetime aides to the former president: former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, longtime Trump adviser Dan Scavino, former Trump Pentagon aide Kash Patel and Bannon. All were asked to provide documents by Thursday, and the panel is also seeking to depose the four men next week.

A lawyer for Meadows didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the subpoena deadline.

Patel said in a statement Thursday that “I will continue to tell the American people the truth about January 6, and I am putting our country and freedoms first through my Fight with Kash initiative.”

The Jan. 6 committee declined to comment on the status of its subpoena to Scavino, who was not mentioned in Thompson and Cheney’s statement.

If any of the foursome don’t comply, the committee could seek criminal contempt referrals, which would require the House to take a full floor vote when it returns to session later this month. That move, if taken, would send the matter to the Justice Department for review. It’s unclear whether DOJ would act quickly on any prospective referrals, but members of the Jan. 6 panel have expressed hope that the Biden administration would act urgently.

The Jan. 6 committee’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), has indicated he wants to complete its investigation by the spring. That time frame, if the nine-member bipartisan panel wants to stick to it, does not allow for protracted legal battles over enforcing subpoenas or litigating against recalcitrant witnesses.

Betsy Woodruff Swan contributed to this report.