January 6 committee recommends contempt charges against Mark Meadows

Donald Trump's former chief of staff received dozens of texts as attack on US Capitol unfolded, panel says

Members of the US House panel investing the January 6 attack on the Capitol voted to recommend contempt charges against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Reuters
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The US House panel investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection has voted to recommend contempt charges against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows as lawmakers revealed a series of frantic texts he received as the attack was underway.

The texts, provided by Mr Meadows before he ceased co-operating with the committee, revealed that members of Congress, Fox News anchors and even former president Donald Trump’s own son were urging Mr Meadows to push the president to act quickly to stop the siege by his supporters.

The House is expected to vote on Tuesday to refer the charges to the US Justice Department, which will decide whether to prosecute him.

“We need an Oval address," Donald Trump Jr texted Mr Meadows as his father's supporters were breaking into the Capitol, sending lawmakers running for their lives and interrupting the certification of President Joe Biden's victory.

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

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

The vote comes as the panel has already interviewed more than 300 witnesses, and subpoenaed more than 40 people, as it seeks to create the most comprehensive record yet of the lead-up to the insurrection and of the violent siege itself.

Mr Meadows last week stopped co-operating with the House panel because it had no "intention of respecting boundaries" concerning questions that Mr Trump has claimed are prohibited because of executive privilege, according to his lawyer.

The former Trump ally has also sued the committee over its "unduly burdensome" summons.

On Monday, Ms Cheney read the texts from Mr Trump Jr and a series of Fox News hosts as those in Mr Trump’s inner circle attempted to reach the president through his chief of staff, imploring him to take action against the violence that was taking place outside and inside the Capitol.

“Hey Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home ... this is hurting all of us ... he is destroying his legacy,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham texted Meadows, according to the committee.

In response to one text from Mr Trump Jr, Mr Meadows texted: “I’m pushing it hard. I agree.”

Ms Cheney also detailed texts that she said were from members of Congress and others in the Capitol.

“Hey, Mark, protestors are literally storming the Capitol,” read one text. "Breaking windows on doors. Rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?”

Another appeared to come from a member in the House chamber. “There’s an armed standoff at the House Chamber door,” the text read, according to the panel.

If Mr Meadows had appeared for his deposition, lawmakers had planned to ask him about Trump’s efforts to overturn the election in the weeks before the insurrection, including his outreach to states and his communications with members of Congress.

Committee members also said they wanted to ask Mr Meadows about his text messages from members of Congress - who were not named - discussing ways to avoiding certifying the election result.

Mr Meadows could become the third associate of the former Republican president to face a criminal contempt of Congress charge.

The Justice Department, at the House's request, has already brought similar charges against Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. The House is also considering similar action against former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: December 14, 2021, 3:09 PM