(The Hill) – Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is suing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as he faces a likely contempt referral for refusing to cooperate with the panel.
In a civil complaint filed Wednesday afternoon, Meadows’s lawyers said the select committee does not have the authority to issue the subpoenas directed at him or obtain his phone records from a third party and that President Biden’s refusal to assert executive privilege opens constitutional questions that should be decided through legal action.
“As a result, Mr. Meadows, a witness, has been put in the untenable position of choosing between conflicting privilege claims that are of constitutional origin and dimension and having to either risk enforcement of the subpoena issued to him, not merely by the House of Representatives, but through actions by the Executive and Judicial Branches, or, alternatively, unilaterally abandoning the former president’s claims of privileges and immunities,” the complaint reads. “Thus, Mr. Meadows turns to the courts to say what the law is.”
The lawsuit says Meadows believed the committee would “act in good faith” until he learned over the weekend the lawmakers had subpoenaed Verizon for his personal phone records. The telecommunications company told Meadows in a letter dated Saturday that it would comply with the committee’s subpoena by Dec. 15 unless a court ordered otherwise.
Spokespersons for Pelosi and the select committee did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
Meadows’s attorney said on Tuesday that his client would not be appearing for an interview that was scheduled for Wednesday, reversing after a tentative agreement was announced last week for Trump’s top White House aide to provide records and testimony to the panel.
The select committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), said on Tuesday that the panel would vote in favor of holding his former House colleague in contempt if he didn’t appear for the interview.
“If indeed Mr. Meadows refuses to appear, the Select Committee will be left no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution,” Meadows said in a joint statement Tuesday with the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).
Thompson said that Meadows needs to tell the committee “about voluminous official records stored in his personal phone and email accounts, which were required to be turned over to the National Archives in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.”
CNN reported on Tuesday that the select committee had issued subpoenas for phone records belonging to more than 100 people, Meadows included.
Meadows’ lawsuit argues that the select committee is not a legitimate legislative body and therefore its subpoenas are invalid and unenforceable. The former White House official also argues that the committee is demanding information and records that are protected by Trump’s claims of executive privilege.
“The Select Committee’s subpoena to Mr. Meadows unlawfully seeks information covered by executive privilege and improperly attempts to compel testimony by a senior Executive Branch official,” the lawsuit reads. “During his time as Chief of Staff, Mr. Meadows was among the most senior Executive Branch officials and his communications and deliberations were covered by executive privilege.”
The question of how much authority a former president has to claim executive privilege is expected to be addressed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals when it rules on Trump’s lawsuit seeking to block the National Archives from turning over hundreds of pages of his administration’s records to the select committee. A three-judge panel for the circuit court heard oral arguments in that case late last month, and however it rules will likely weigh heavily in Meadows’s lawsuit.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.