By Katelyn Polantz, CNN Reporter, Crime and Justice
The House select committee has narrowed what it wants to ask former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, as it continues to press for more documents and testimony from the key January 6 witness in the Trump White House.
“We’ve talked to a lot of Mr. Meadows’ associates and people who worked with him,” Douglas Letter, House general counsel, said in court on Wednesday at a hearing about a lawsuit Meadows brought against the committee.
The committee now has “laser-like focus” after obtaining thousands of documents and hundreds of other witness interviews, Letter added. But the committee still has questions for Meadows.
The House’s legal standoff with Meadows is now poised to come to a head in court in the first half of June — around the same time the committee is planning to hold its first public hearings in its sweeping investigation. It is at the front of a collection of several slower-moving cases where witnesses have sued to block the committee’s subpoenas.
Judge Carl Nichols of the DC District Court said he would aim to potentially hold major court hearings in Meadows’ lawsuit, where the former Trump White House chief of staff argues he does not have to testify to the House, in the first two weeks of June. It was unclear how soon Nichols would rule after that.
The House committee has told the court it wants a ruling quickly, in the hopes that a decision in the House’s favor at the trial level would prompt Meadows to sit for an interview.
But a ruling against him from Nichols doesn’t necessarily mean Meadows would agree to testify right away, his lawyer, George Terwilliger, said on Wednesday. He could still appeal, if he were to lose.
“We intend to adjudicate Mr. Meadows’ rights in connection with that subpoena as fully and completely as we can,” Terwilliger said.
Meadows is perhaps the most prominent witness invited by the House not to have sat for an interview, save for Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
The House subpoenaed Meadows for documents and testimony in October, and he handed over more than 2,000 text messages he sent and received between Election Day 2020 and the Biden inauguration. The text messages, which have since been obtained by CNN, reveal how top Republican Party officials, right-wing figures and even Trump’s family members discussed with him what the President should say and do after the election and even in the middle of the insurrection.
Meadows did not turn over other documents he had, and the House committee voted to hold him in criminal contempt of Congress for it and for his refusal to testify, referring the matter to the Justice Department. He has not been charged with a crime.
While the contempt proceeding bubbled up late last year, Meadows went to court, suing the committee. Citing the possibility that information around the ex-President may be privileged, Meadows has told the court he cannot testify and also has sought to block a House subpoena for his phone records.
Other White House advisers including Ben Williamson, one of Meadows’ top advisers, met with the committee for hours, while another, then-White House deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, has not and was also held in contempt.
The case was initially structured to move slowly, but the House’s recent maneuvering may send it toward crucial decisions this summer.
A handful of other judges — including the Supreme Court — have already ruled that some of the House committee’s pursuits in the January 6, 2021, investigation are valid and could not be blocked by Trump’s attempts to make privilege assertions. Just this week, another judge in the DC District Court decided the House select committee is properly comprised and one of its subpoenas was valid.
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