With his deposition scheduled for next week, a longtime ally to former President Donald Trump and self-proclaimed dirty trickster Roger Stone has informed the Jan. 6 Committee that he will invoke the Fifth Amendment, effectively evading scrutiny for now.
NBC was first to report the decision, which was sent in a letter from Stone’s attorney Grant Smith to the committee on Wednesday. In addition to invoking the amendment as it relates to his testimony, this also applies to any physical records that the committee has sought.
Stone is now the third witness central to the committee’s probe that has said he will take the Fifth to avoid self-incrimination. Before Stone, John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark also invoked the amendment. Eastman was responsible for drafting a six-point strategy for former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election results. Clark was allegedly at the center of a plot to oust his superiors at the Justice Department and install himself, with Trump’s blessing, so that the men could promote Trump’s debunked theories of election fraud to state officials.
Stone was slated to appear for a closed-door deposition on Dec. 17. He was first subpoenaed on Nov. 22. Though invoking the Fifth Amendment, Stone’s attorney said in the letter to committee chairman Bennie Thompson, the decision does not reflect confirmation of the existence of records sought by legislators.
Reportedly calling the committee’s requests “overbroad, overreaching and too wide-ranging to be deemed anything other than a fishing expedition,” in the letter, Stone’s attorney Grant Smith underlined that it was his client’s right to decline comment.
A day ago, Thompson, while speaking to reporters at CNN, said of those targets who have deployed their Fifth Amendment right: “Every American can do it. That’s one of the rights the Constitution guarantees.”
Stone fervently supported the former president’s lies about the outcome of the 2020 election. A series of documents already in the committee’s possession, credible media reports, and Stone’s own statements in the run-up to the attack, drew the select committee’s attention to the longtime Republican operative.
The committee alleges Stone was in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 on the promise that he would lead a march to the U.S. Capitol. A month before the siege, he participated in a pro-Trump rally in Washington where he urged people to “fight until the bitter end.” His calls for battle were delivered as he reportedly had a goon squad made up of Oath Keepers members insulating him. The group is a white supremacist-leaning extremist militia organization.
Lawmakers have suggested Stone paid for his private security detail by directing people to make donations at a ‘Stop the Steal’ website. According to Mother Jones, the link was quickly removed after the insurrection exploded at the Capitol.
NBC reported that the letter from Stone’s attorney was dated Dec. 6 and in addition to the now-routine gripes from Trump’s inner circle about congressional overreach, the missive also criticized Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat on the select committee. Schiff and Stone tangled when Trump was impeached the first time and through his attorney on Dec. 6, Stone slammed Schiff as “relentlessly misrepresenting evidence” regarding him.
Rep. Schiff did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the water grows deeper for other probe targets like Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows. Meadows was informed on Wednesday that the committee will now advance criminal contempt proceedings against him since he has failed to cooperate with the panel.
Meadows has waffled on cooperation since his first subpoena on Sept. 23. He initially agreed to sit for deposition and turned over some 6,000 pages of documents to the committee. But once excerpts of his memoir started circulating, revealed by Meadows that Trump lied about his Covid-19 status ahead of a presidential debate with Joe Biden, he backtracked.
On Tuesday, through his attorney, Meadows informed the panel he would no longer cooperate, citing the investigatory body’s pursuit of phone records from over 100 people. Chairman Thompson rebuffed Meadows’ assertion.
“Despite your very broad claims of privilege, Mr. Meadows has also produced documents that you apparently agree are relevant and not protected by any privilege at all,” Thompson wrote on Dec. 7. [Emphasis original]
The record Meadows has produced so far include a Nov. 7 email discussing alternate slates of electors as a part of the “direct and collateral attack” after the election, an email from Jan. 5 containing a 38-page PowerPoint presentation entitled “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN” that was to be distributed on Capitol Hill, and a Jan. 5 email where Meadows discussed having the National Guard on standby.
Meadows also provided the committee with access to a text message where he responded to a member of congress, “I love it,” when talking about potentially picking alternate electors in key states. Another text held by the committee depicts Meadows and a Jan. 6 rally organizer texting about the need for Trump to issue a statement condemning the attack.
The select committee revealed in its letter that Meadows also provided the body with a privilege log where he restricted access to hundreds upon hundreds of emails and over 1,000 texts. Meadow maintains those items are protected by executive privilege.
Meadows’ decision to forgo compliance has proven to the committee that he “does not intend to participate in a deposition” despite lacking a “legitimate legal basis” for his refusal.
“There is no legitimate legal basis for Mr. Meadows to refuse to cooperate with the select committee and answer questions about the documents he produced, the personal devices and accounts he used, the events he wrote about in his newly released book and, among other things, his other public statements,” Thompson wrote. “The committee is left with no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution.”