Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows filed a lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the lower chamber’s Select Committee on Jan. 6 Wednesday.
Meadows, who initially cooperated with the committee before pulling back, faces imminent contempt charges after the former President Trump chief failed to show for a scheduled deposition.
“The select committee is left with no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him to criminal prosecution,” wrote Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., in a letter to Meadows’ attorney, according to The New York Times.
Meadows’ legal team, however, is claiming the House panel is demanding records and testimony covered by executive privilege.
“The Select Committee acts absent any valid legislative power and threatens to violate longstanding principles of executive privilege and immunity that are of constitutional origin and dimension,” the lawsuit reads.
Meadows is also challenging the legitimacy of the House investigation altogether, saying it’s a partisan witch hunt show trial with no legislative purpose without participation from the Republican-appointed members barred by Pelosi. The committee has gone as far as to issue subpoenas targeting private citizens, even demanding telephone records, for exercising the First Amendment right to protest with no involvement with the Capitol riot.
“The subpoenas issued to Mark Meadows and Verizon were issued by the Select Committee as part of an unconstitutional attempt to usurp the Executive Branch’s authority to enforce the law and to expose what the Select Committee believes to be problematic actions by a political opponent,” reads the complaint. “Congress has no authority to issue subpoenas for these purposes.”
“Congress has no freestanding power to issue subpoenas,” Meadows’ attorneys added, emphasis ours. “Instead, its investigative powers are ancillary to its legislative authority… Because of this tie between the investigative and legislative powers, Congress may only issue subpoenas that serve a valid legislative purpose.”
Democrats have attempted to circumvent protections under executive privilege for officials who served under Trump by asserting the current occupant in the White House, President Joe Biden, is able to sign away the privileges of his Republican predecessor. Biden has repeatedly denied Trump’s request to keep White House records private from House investigators.
Before Meadows began to protest compelled cooperation with the weaponized probe, the former four-term House member reportedly turned over about 6,000 pages of documents.
If Pelosi’s probe follows through with its pledge to hold Meadows in contempt, Meadows would become the third to face criminal charges from the lower chamber.
Last week, the committee voted to refer former Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark to the Justice Department for criminal contempt after the full chamber voted to charge former Trump adviser Steve Bannon with contempt in October.
Bannon’s anticipated trial date is expected for July 18 after defying the committee’s subpoena.