The Jan. 6 committee fillets the contemptuous Mark Meadows

The Jan. 6 committee fillets the contemptuous Mark Meadows
"Mark Meadows" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Trump just directed his top four deputies to ignore lawful House Jan. 6 committee subpoenas

It has never been clear how effective a chief of staff Mark Meadows proved to be for Donald Trump. Trump always has been too concerned with self over governing. But it was clear in hearing out the Jan. 6 committee that Meadows came across to that group as a willful buffoon.

The Jan. 6 Select Congressional Committee dramatically dispatched Meadows last night with a recommended 9-0 contempt of Congress vote. It was as dripping in scorn and disappointment for a former colleague’s disrespect to the House as it was filled with questions that go well beyond his failure to testify.

It seems certain that Meadows is headed for a full House contempt vote, which could come as early as Tuesday, and recommended prosecution for refusing to answer his subpoena, as with Trump adviser Steve Bannon. But the case against Meadows suggests actual criminal complicity in a conspiracy to overthrow the government through the subversion of electoral votes.

Republicans and Democrats on the panel made clear that the contempt they felt for a former colleague reflected personal contempt as well as the more official sort.

The committee, with seven Democrats and two Republicans, openly mocked Meadows’ claims of executive privilege clearly thrust upon him by Trump. Meadows already had turned over 9,000 emails, texts, phone calls and records to the panel; he has published and promoted a book purporting to discuss exact topics for which the committee has questions; he took part in television interviews in which he covered similar ground in political cover for his former boss.

Indeed, after the committee had disclosed that the documents included in a Jan. 5 email which, per the White House, said the National Guard was on standby to “protect pro-Trump people.” Anyone following the inquiries into the insurrection attempt would have serious questions about Meadows’ knowledge of events leading to it.

Meadows, Filleted

Before television cameras, the Republicans and Democrats on
the panel made clear that the contempt they felt for a former colleague reflected personal contempt as well as the more official sort. For years, Meadows, former ranking member of the Government and Operations Committee and leader of the House Freedom Caucus until taking over as Trump’s top counselor, was strident in calling out members of the Barack Obama administration who did not satisfy his own subpoenas and questions.

At this hearing, committee members placed Meadows in a central position in dealing with other unnamed Republican Congress members to derail the Jan. 6 election certification; in repeated meetings with conspiracists aiming to overthrow the election results; and as a go-between among Congress members under siege, Trump family members and Trump himself as the Jan. 6 violence continued to play out.

As The Times noted, according to dozens of text messages that members of the panel read aloud, Meadows fielded requests from terrified lawmakers and even members of Trump’s family begging for Meadows to persuade Trump to call off the rioters.

Others noted that he was neck-deep in attempts to overturn election results. He traveled to Georgia on Trump’s behalf before that phone call in which Trump asked the secretary of state to “find” sufficient votes to change the outcome. The committee report detailed communications showing that Meadows met with and coordinated information in a 38-page PowerPoint on how state delegations, Congress members and Vice President Mike Pence could stop the certification by ordering martial law and tossing votes; and he coordinated with Jan. 6 rally organizers.

Even at best, executive privilege is not a blank check to refuse a House subpoena particularly to answer a whole lot of questions that fall outside any direct advisory communications with Trump. For that matter, we’re seeing the same refusal attitude extending now to former trade representative Peter Navarro before a different committee looking at Covid policies.

Meadows, Absent

All there was on the other side was ordered silence – and a legal lawsuit that the subpoena was overly broad. But, to anyone listening to the hearing, the committee’s questions all sounded, well, reasonable.

Of course, the missing link here is Trump himself, who is stopping anyone from testifying whose recollections might show him in an unfavorable light. As I have argued previously, if Trump believes in his own legal cause, it is maddening that he doesn’t stand up and testify proudly about his actions before, during and since.

It all would be absurd if it were not so deadly serious.

Jan 6 was a symptom, not the disease itself. We’re watching our election and voting rights, our democracy itself under continuing attack by a populism that demands authoritarianism – and a Donald Trump who wants to return to don that monarchial crown.

Trump’s PowerPoint coup plotters were crackpots, argues Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who adds, “We may not be so lucky next time.”

The hearing itself was only 45 minutes, an effective round-robin of congressional outrage that left only one question: Where is the Justice Department’s parallel investigation of those who led and planned the overthrow of our government?

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