Among the first set of subpoenas issued by the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 back in September, the one issued to Trump advisor and professional fascist Steve Bannon has gotten the most attention. That’s because Bannon’s refusal to testify was followed by a vote, first in the committee and later before the full House, to hold him in contempt of Congress. A motion to that effect was referred to the Department of Justice on October 21, and then waiting for the DOJ to do something became the nation’s most frustrating pastime.
But Bannon wasn’t the only recipient in round one. The other members of the un-fabulous four were Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, and former Devin Nunes aide operating way above his abilities as Pentagon chief of staff, Kash Patel. Since these folks haven’t had their name run up the line to set in queue behind Bannon, it may seem that nothing is happening and that the odds of their ever appearing before the Committee are decidedly on the “none” side of a scale running up to “slim.”
According to The Washington Post, that’s not the case. In particular, Meadows has been “engaged” with the committee’s staff in an effort to “negotiate the terms of his deposition and turning over of documents.” Which sounds like something … until it’s immediately followed by concerns about “the pace of these discussions.” That makes it seem less like Meadows is attempting to negotiate in good faith and much more like he’s merely playing with the committee in an attempt to stop them from taking even the ineffective steps so far applied to Bannon.
It’s after 10 AM, and Mark Meadows has not appeared. Instead, the committee has a new letter from his attorney claiming that there is “a sharp legal dispute” with the committee over issues including “whether Meadows can be compelled to testify” and testimony involving privileged communications. Except there are no such issues. Congress ability to compel testimony has never been in dispute, and the issues revolving around claims of protected information were tackled in Nixon v. General Services Administration (1977) which upheld the rules of the Presidential Recordings and Material Preservation Act under which the House Select Committee is operating.
On Wednesday evening, White House Deputy Counsel Jonathan Su made it exceedingly clear that in no way would President Joe Biden be stepping in to shield Meadows with some form of executive privilege.
“Consistent with President Biden’s determination that an assertion of privilege is not justified with respect to testimony and documents relating to these particular subjects, he has determined that he will not assert executive privilege with respect to your client’s deposition testimony on these subjects, or any documents your client may possess that bear on them.”
In response, Meadows attorney, George Terwilliger III (really) responded by going immediately to Not My President territory.
“Mr. Meadows remains under the instructions of former President Trump to respect longstanding principles of executive privilege. It now appears the courts will have to resolve this conflict.”
Which would seem to be an absolute signal that the only recourse from this point is to take Meadows’ name before the committee and start the process of a contempt citation. Doing so when the decision on Bannon has yet to be rendered by the DOJ, much less by the series of courts that are sure to follow, may seem pointless. But at least if the committee gets the cases in a row now, it won’t be faced with additional delays—like Meadows pretending to “negotiate”—at some point in the future.
Exactly what the DOJ has been investigating for the better part of a month is difficult to determine. They’re not being asked to determine Bannon’s role on Jan. 6, or even to determine whether he had any such role. The only question that should be before Merrick Garland is whether or not Congress has the right to enforce its subpoenas to compel testimony. Whether the answer is yes or no or simply that the DOJ wants to take no role in the matter, there’s nothing in this case that should have required weeks of fresh investigation.