President Biden said Wednesday he supports the House of Representatives voting to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt for declining to testify about his activities during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“I don’t know enough with what — just what I’ve seen, I’ve not spoken to anyone, it seems to me he is worthy of being held in contempt,” Biden told reporters as he departed the White House to tour tornado damage in Kentucky.
The House voted 222-208 Tuesday night to refer Meadows to the Justice Department for potential prosecution for contempt of Congress. Meadows, a former GOP House member from North Carolina, did not appear for a scheduled deposition last week, citing former President Donald Trump’s claims of executive privilege.
Meadows handed over nearly 9,000 pages of emails and text messages before cutting off contact with the committee last week. Those documents included desperate text messages from journalists, politicians and even Donald Trump Jr. pleading with Meadows to get Trump to calm a wild mob that had stormed the Capitol to disrupt certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory.
Biden has repeatedly claimed that he will allow the Justice Department to make independent decisions regarding prosecutions. However, he has a history of weighing in on potential contempt penalties related to the Jan. 6 committee.
In October, after former Trump adviser Steve Bannon refused to appear before the panel, Biden called on the Justice Department to prosecute anyone who refused to testify.
“I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable criminally,” Biden said at the time. When a reporter followed up by asking, “Should they be prosecuted by the Justice Department?,” Biden answered, “I do, yes.”
Biden later apologized for that remark, saying during an Oct. 21 CNN town hall: “The way I said it was not appropriate … I should have chosen my words more wisely.”
Bannon was indicted last month by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress after he refused to testify before the committee — the first such prosecution since 1983.
Meadows attorney George Terwilliger said Tuesday that his client “never ‘stopped cooperating’” with the committee — though Meadows did sue the committee last week, arguing its subpoenas were “overly broad and unduly burdensome.” Trump also is suing to assert executive privilege over records held by the National Archives.
“What message does that duplicity send to him as well as to others who might be inclined to consider cooperating in good faith to the extent possible?” Terwilliger said of the contempt vote.
“I have tried to share non-privileged information,” Meadows told Fox host Sean Hannity in an interview Monday night. “But truly, the executive privilege that Donald Trump has claimed is not mine to waive, it’s not Congress’ to waive and that’s why we filed the lawsuit to hopefully get the courts to weigh in — hopefully they will weigh in.”
The House resolution against Meadows instructed the Justice Department that he should “be proceeded against in the manner and form provided by law.” All Democrats voted to hold Meadows in contempt, as did Republican Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
Unlike Bannon, Meadows was a White House employee at the time of the riot, which legal analysts say gives him a better argument than Bannon regarding executive privilege.
It’s rare for the Justice Department to prosecute someone for contempt of Congress. In 2012, the Republican-led House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for declining to produce documents in the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal. Holder’s deputies declined to prosecute him.