Former Trump chief of staff risks criminal charges in Capitol riot investigation

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Donald Trump’s former chief of staff said Tuesday that he was no longer willing to cooperate with the investigation into the assault on the United States Capitol in January, prompting investigators to threaten him with criminal prosecution.

Mark Meadows, who did not appear before the congressional panel last month, is seen as a key witness to Trump’s role in efforts to reverse the elections by undemocratic means.

After initially turning down a subpoena to testify before the House committee, Meadows later reached an agreement on sharing information with lawmakers, before backtracking again.

“Now the actions of the select committee have made such an appearance untenable,” Meadows attorney George Terwilliger said in a new letter to the committee circulated in the US media.

The attorney said Meadows’ change of mind came after he learned over the weekend that the committee had “issued wide-ranging subpoenas to obtain information from a third-party communications provider.”

“We now have every indication from the information that was provided to us last Friday, about which Mr. Meadows could expect to be questioned, that the select committee does not intend to abide by the limits related to executive privilege,” he added Terwillinger.

Meadows was serving as Trump’s chief of staff when supporters of the former president stormed the United States Capitol on January 6 in an attempt to stop the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

Trump has invoked “executive privilege,” an exception theoretically available only to incumbent presidents to protect sensitive private exchanges with aides, in an attempt to avoid having to hand over documents requested by the committee.

The panel rejected Meadows’ claim of executive privilege, noting that the hardline former Republican congressman had provided many details about the attack, including his conversations with then-President Trump, in a new book.

Panel chair Bennie Thompson and his deputy Liz Cheney said in a statement that they planned to go ahead with a deposition of the Trump loyalist scheduled for Wednesday.

“If in fact Mr. Meadows refuses to appear, the select committee will have no choice but to expedite contempt proceedings and recommend that the agency in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him to criminal prosecution.”

‘Fight like hell’

House investigators believe that Meadows, former White House strategist Steve Bannon and other Trump advisers and employees may have information about the ties between the White House and the crowd of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol.

Bannon was arrested last month on a count of contempt of Congress after rejecting his own subpoena and a federal judge who attended a preliminary hearing on Tuesday set July 18 for his trial.

The committee has cited several Trump allies as it comes close to the actions of those involved in planning the rallies in Washington that preceded the assault on Congress.

Trump urged his supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell” in a fierce speech on January 6 that was the culmination of months of unsubstantiated claims of fraud about a pageant he had just lost to Biden.

The news of Meadows’ sea change came when the watchdog that oversees the U.S. Capitol Police told Congress that the agency had not done enough since the assault to ensure the safety of lawmakers in the event. from another attack.

Inspector General Michael Bolton told the Senate Rules Committee that of the 200 security improvements the department provided to the inspector general, only 61 had been made.

He said the agency “lacks the overall training infrastructure to meet the needs of the department, the level of intelligence gathering and expertise needed, and a necessary general cultural shift.”

“The United States Capitol Police agrees with the inspector general that the department must continue to improve and expand its intelligence and protection capabilities,” the force said in a statement in response to Bolton.

(AFP)