The Democratic-led House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has reached a new agreement with former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for him to appear for an initial deposition, and the panel says he is cooperating by providing documents.
The committee and Meadows' attorney, George Terwilliger, said on Tuesday that both sides had reached the agreement that included the appearance and the turning over of records. However, the committee warned that it is still weighing taking additional steps against Meadows depending on how cooperative he is with his testimony.
"Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the Select Committee through his attorney. He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for an initial deposition," Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who chairs the committee, said in a statement. "The Select Committee expects all witnesses, including Mr. Meadows, to provide all information requested and that the Select Committee is lawfully entitled to receive. The committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition."
A source familiar with the committee's proceedings told NPR that Meadows is expected to testify sometime next week.
'A positive step'
"It's not a deal," cautioned Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., one of the panel's lawmakers. "But it's positive. It's a positive step that he's engaging with the committee."
Aguilar, who is also vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said Meadows produced documents through his attorney that will be helpful to the panel, and members will go through those and assess his level of cooperation after his testimony.
Another California Democrat and panel member, Rep. Adam Schiff, agreed that Meadows' level of cooperation is not clear yet.
"We will reserve judgment about how fully he is complying with the subpoena," said Schiff, who is also chair of the House Intelligence Committee. "But I'm glad he's decided to appear and produce documents and we'll see just how serious he is ... when he does show up."
Meadows' attorney has repeatedly noted his client's objections to cooperating previously based on claims of executive privilege, which has been waived by the sitting president, Joe Biden, and is at issue in the courts regarding Donald Trump. On Tuesday, Terwilliger said they continue to look for a solution that doesn't breach that concern.
"As we have from the beginning, we continue to work with the Select Committee and its staff to see if we can reach an accommodation that does not require Mr. Meadows to waive Executive Privilege or to forfeit the long-standing position that senior White House aides cannot be compelled to testify before Congress," Terwilliger said in a statement. "We appreciate the Select Committee's openness to receiving voluntary responses on non-privileged topics."
Lawmakers have warned Meadows repeatedly that they could issue a criminal contempt referral if he does not ultimately cooperate. He failed to show up for a November deposition date, triggering one of those recent warnings.
"Mr. Meadows's actions today — choosing to defy the law — will force the Select Committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena," Thompson and the committee's ranking member, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in a joint statement after Meadows failed to show up Nov. 12.
Still, the panel has not yet acted on that statement in part because lawmakers have faced a bigger legal test with Meadows than they did with former strategist Steve Bannon, who was not working in the Trump administration on Jan. 6. The committee issued a criminal contempt referral for Bannon less than a month after he received his Sept. 23 subpoena — the same day Meadows received his.
But the panel has taken more than twice as long to decide if it'll take similar steps against Meadows.
Clark and Raffensperger
On Wednesday, the committee will meet to vote on a criminal contempt referral for ex-Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark. He would mark the second such case for the panel if the referral is approved.
On Tuesday the committee released more than a dozen exhibits in its contempt report, including its first publicly released transcript that shows Clark's attorney rejecting responses on his client's behalf because of executive privilege.
The moves against Bannon — and potentially Clark — may have sent messages to Meadows and other witnesses that cooperation is their best option.
"We've been clear and consistent throughout: Willful defiance of the committee will have consequences," Aguilar said. "We've shown that with Mr. Clark, we've shown that with Mr. Bannon, and we're not afraid to exercise it."
So far, the panel has interviewed nearly 250 witnesses, according to California Democrat and panel member Rep. Zoe Lofgren.
Among them is Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who was embroiled in a public feud with Trump over that state's election that went for Biden.
Raffensperger met in person with the panel for about four hours Tuesday.
In a statement, Raffensperger slammed what he called liberals' focus on Trump, and said conservatives should direct their attention to "kitchen table issues" instead.
"I spoke to the January 6th committee to ensure they included the full record of how stolen election claims damage our democracy – whether in 2016, 2018, or 2020," Raffensperger said.