Mark Meadows: US House votes to hold Donald Trump's ex-chief of staff in contempt

Republican politician ceased co-operating with the congressional panel investigating January 6 attack on Capitol

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The US House of Representatives has approved a resolution to hold Mark Meadows, who served as the White House chief of staff under former president Donald Trump, in contempt of Congress and recommended that he face federal charges.

Mr Meadows was held in contempt for failing to appear for a deposition with the congressional panel investigating the January 6 assault on the Capitol.

The move late on Tuesday came a week after the Republican politician stopped co-operating with the committee. A lawyer for Mr Meadows said the panel was not respecting the boundaries of executive privilege.

Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who both serve on the House select committee, were the lone Republicans to join Democrats in backing the referral.

Tuesday night's vote came one day after the January 6 panel revealed a series of panicky text messages received by Mr Meadows on January 6. The texts were sent by Republican members of Congress, journalists, Fox News hosts and even Mr Trump's own son, begging Mr Meadows to make Mr Trump end the violence.

"We need an Oval [Office] address," Donald Trump Jr texted Mr Meadows as the president's supporters broke into the Capitol, causing members of Congress, staffers and journalists to flee to safety.

"He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”

Mr Trump Jr added: "He’s got to condemn this [expletive] ASAP."

Fox News host Laura Ingraham said the president is "destroying his legacy".

"Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home," one text reads.

Primetime host Sean Hannity asked: "Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol."

The texts were part of a collection of 9,000 documents Mr Meadows provided to the committee before he stopped co-operating. Members of the panel said the texts raise serious questions about what the White House and Mr Trump were doing as the attack was under way.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday told reporters: "we are all watching ... what is unfolding on the House side. And it will be interesting to reveal all the participants who were involved."

Mr Meadows became the first former member of the House of Representatives since the 1830s to be held in contempt. He also is the first chief of staff to be prosecuted since leaving the position in nearly 50 years.

The charges will now be sent to federal prosecutors who will decide whether to present the case to a grand jury for possible criminal charges.

Bennie Thompson, chair of the House select committee, said history will not consider Mr Meadows a "victim".

"History will be written about these times, about the work this committee has undertaken,” he said.

“And history will not look upon any of you as a martyr."

Mr Meadows's contempt charge is the latest show of force by the House select committee, which has moved rapidly as it investigates the events surrounding the January 6 insurrection.

The committee has so far interviewed more than 300 witnesses and subpoenaed 40 people as it aims to establish the most comprehensive record yet on the lead-up to the insurrection and the violence on Capitol Hill itself.

Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist, has already been charged with contempt and surrendered to federal authorities. A federal judge last week set a tentative trial start date for July 18, 2022.

Mr Bannon and Mr Meadows could face up to a year in prison on each charge if convicted.

Updated: December 15, 2021, 3:02 PM
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