Skip to main content

Ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Loses Bid to Block Jan. 6th Committee’s Subpoena

Mark Meadows

Ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows walks along the South Lawn before then-President Donald Trump departs from the White House on Oct. 30, 2020. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows lost his effort to block a subpoena from the Jan. 6th Committee on Monday, after a Donald Trump-appointed federal judge found the lawmakers were protected by the Constitution’s speech or debate clause.

“Without a doubt, the Select Committee’s investigation of the January 6th attack is legitimately tied to Congress’s legislative functions,” U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols found in a 27-page opinion. “The Court of Appeals held in Trump v. Thompson that the investigation into the causes and circumstances surrounding the breach of the Capitol ‘plainly has a valid legislative purpose.'”

The January 6th Committee issued the subpoena to Meadows in September 2021, with the chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), writing that the ex-chief of staff “engaged in multiple elements of the planning and preparation of efforts” to overturn Trump’s defeat.

Meadows went to federal court later that year in December, asking the judge to “invalidate” the subpoenas.

The judge found that the Constitution’s speech or debate clause means that he has no power to do so. The clause affords immunity to lawmakers from litigation over legislative speech. The ex-Trump chief tried to vault this hurdle by arguing that the subpoenas are not protected legislative acts, but Nichols disagreed on that point.

“House Resolution 503 tasked the Select Committee with investigating and reporting on the ‘facts, circumstances, and causes relating to’ the January 6th attack and “the interference with the peaceful transfer of power,’ including ‘the influencing factors that fomented such an attack on American representative democracy while engaged in a constitutional process,'” the ruling states. “Although the resolution does not explicitly extend the Select Committee’s inquiry to cover allegations of election fraud arising out of the 2020 presidential election and related efforts to contest the election, those subjects are plausibly related to the January 6th riot. As part of its investigation, the Select Committee has scrutinized President Trump’s “role in rallying his supporters, directing them to march to the Capitol …, and propagating the underlying false narrative of election fraud.'”

Judge Nichols then turned to the Committee’s specific evidence against Meadows.

“At the time it issued the subpoena to Meadows, the Select Committee had evidence that Meadows was in contact with President Trump on January 6th and participated in efforts to challenge the election results. […] Meadows is therefore a proper subject of the Select Committee’s investigation, and the Court cannot say that the Committee’s demands for his testimony, documents, and cell phone records are irrelevant to its investigative task,” the judge said.

For Nichols, the speech or debate clause means he cannot grapple with the prospective case’s thornier controversies.

“His claims raise a number of unsettled questions, including whether a senior aide to a former President can be compelled to testify before Congress; whether a former President can validly assert executive privilege; and whether a sitting President may override a former President’s claim of privilege,” the opinion states. “Before the Court can wrestle with those issues, however, it must first address whether the Speech or Debate Clause bars this suit. The Court concludes that it does, and it therefore dismisses Meadows’s claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.”

Read the ruling here.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."