Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows will no longer cooperate with the House select committee investigating January 6 insurrection, according to a letter from his attorney to the panel, which was obtained by CNN on Tuesday.
“We agreed to provide thousands of pages of responsive documents and Mr. Meadows was willing to appear voluntarily, not under compulsion of the Select Committee’s subpoena to him, for a deposition to answer questions about non-privileged matters. Now actions by the Select Committee have made such an appearance untenable,” the letter from George J. Terwilliger II stated.
“In short, we now have every indication from the information supplied to us last Friday – upon which Mr. Meadows could expect to be questioned – that the Select Committee has no intention of respecting boundaries concerning Executive Privilege,” Terwilliger added.
The committee said later Tuesday that it will move forward with a scheduled deposition with Meadows on Wednesday even though he said he no longer plans to cooperate.
By proceeding with the scheduled deposition, the committee is setting up a path to hold Meadows in criminal contempt.
“Tomorrow’s deposition, which was scheduled at Mr. Meadows’s request, will go forward as planned. If indeed Mr. Meadows refuses to appear, the Select Committee will be left no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution,” Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who lead the committee, said in a joint statement.
Thompson told CNN later Tuesday evening, “Obviously, we had hoped Mr. Meadows would continue to work with the committee. But obviously based on his lawyer’s letter today and his plan to not show up for the deposition, that creates a different dynamic.”
“As you know, we were prepared to go with contempt earlier, but we withheld it based on what we thought was an agreement that we’d work together. That has not been the case. So obviously, we will move forward with it,” he said.
Although Thompson indicated criminal contempt was on the table, he made clear that the committee is weighing multiple options, including immunity, that could pave the way for it to get the information that it wants from Meadows.
“I think we’re interested in getting the information. I think we will still want Mr. Meadows to cooperate. So we will look at all of our options at this point,” he said.
Responding to the letter from Meadows’ attorney, the committee made clear it needs to hear from the former White House chief of staff “about voluminous official records stored in his personal phone and email accounts, which were required to be turned over to the National Archives in accordance with the Presidential Records Act. “
A source familiar with the matter told CNN that among the 6,000 pages of documents Meadows has already provided to the committee are communications from January 6. It is still unclear who communicated that day with Meadows but the source said that “many people had Meadows’ cell phone.”
Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, who serves on the panel, told CNN that within the documents Meadows turned over is evidence that he was in communication with individuals involved in the planning of the rally on January 6 that preceded the riot.
“What I’ll share is that we continue to learn and we continue to connect the dots,” Aguilar said. “But individuals that were responsible for the planning of January 6 in the rally, Mr. Meadows was in communication with, and those are in the documents … that he turned over himself.”
Aguilar added that some of the records Meadows turned over, including text messages, were from his personal device.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat and member of the committee, said on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” that the records including “volumes of material, including real time communication as the riot unfolded. Lofgren said the messages were shared “without an assertion of privilege,” and criticized Meadows for then reversing his cooperation.
“The committee wants to ask him about some of that, and it’s really untenable that all of a sudden at the last minute he’s saying no. That somehow there’s some reason why he can’t talk about this,” Lofgren said.
CNN first reported last week that Meadows had begun cooperating with the committee, handing over thousands of documents and agreeing to appear for an interview this week.
Meadows’ about-face is due in part to learning over the weekend that the committee had “issued wide ranging subpoenas for information from a third party communications provider,” the letter notes.
“As a result of careful and deliberate consideration of these factors, we now must decline the opportunity to appear voluntarily for a deposition,” Terwilliger writes.
Terwilliger writes that Meadows would answer written questions “so that there might be both an orderly process and a clear record of questions and related assertions of privilege where appropriate.”
Responding to Meadows’ claim that the committee was ignoring his claims of executive privilege, Thompson and Cheney state that Meadows was willing to discuss details about Trump in his new book.
“Mark Meadows has informed the Select Committee that he does not intend to cooperate further with our investigation despite his apparent willingness to provide details about the facts and circumstances surrounding the January 6th attack, including conversations with President Trump, in the book he is now promoting and selling,” they write.
The pair add that they have “numerous questions” for Meadows that have nothing to do with executive privilege.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat who’s also a member of the select committee, said Tuesday evening that while the panel will continue to do all it can to compel the testimony of witnesses like Meadows and Steve Bannon, members believe they’ll be able to get the information they’re looking for without their help.
“To be fair, it’s only a very handful of people who want to risk jail time and fines for contempt of Congress who are obstructing our process,” Murphy said.
“The vast majority of the people that we have reached out to are providing us with information, with evidence, with text messages, with emails, with details of conversations that they have been a party to. So these people are well within their right to not cooperate, but it’s not as if we’re not going to get to the information we need.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
CNN’s Ryan Nobles and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.