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Minutes After Steve Bannon Indictment, Jan. 6 Committee Sends Shot Across the Bow to Ex-Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows

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.

Roughly 20 minutes after the Department of Justice unveiled an indictment against former President Donald Trump’s ex-senior advisor Steve Bannon, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack signaled that ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows could meet the same fate for “choosing to defy the law.”

The Committee’s Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice-Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) gave Meadows a Friday morning deadline at 10 a.m. to produce subpoenaed documents and sit for a deposition.

The bipartisan lawmakers said that the time came and went with only defiance from Meadows.

“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 Cheney wrote in a joint statement. “If his defiance persists and that process moves ahead, the record will reveal the wide range of matters the Select Committee wished to discuss with Mr. Meadows until his decision to hide behind the former President’s spurious claims of privilege. Many of those matters are not even conceivably subject to any privilege claim, even if there were one.”

“Indeed, Mr. Meadows has failed to answer even the most basic questions, including whether he was using a private cell phone to communicate on January 6th, and where his text messages from that day are,” the Congress members added.

Just minutes earlier, the Department of Justice unveiled two contempt of Congress charges against Bannon, one claiming that he broke the law by stonewalling deposition testimony and another over the documents he refused to produce. The Bannon indictment document itself almost immediately pointed to Bannon’s status as a “private citizen” for several years ahead of Jan. 6, distinguishing his status from other former Trump administration officials who have received subpoenas in recent days.

Attorney General Merrick Garland described the Bannon indictment as the fulfillment of a promise he made upon taking office to hold the powerful into account.

“Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law,” Garland wrote in a statement. “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”

The indictment also came days after U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves assumed his post as leading the District of Columbia office.

The Jan. 6 Committee said that the Justice Department’s action should serve as a warning for anyone who would defy their investigation.

“Steve Bannon’s indictment should send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can ignore the Select Committee or try to stonewall our investigation: no one is above the law,” Thompson and Cheney said. “We will not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to get the information we need.”

Previously charged with defrauding donors to We Build the Wall—a crowdfunded effort to erect a U.S.-Mexico barrier—Bannon received an eleventh-hour pardon from Trump. Bannon’s accused co-conspirators did not. If convicted, Bannon can face a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail on each count. He also faces a possible fine of up to $2,000 total.

[Image via Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images]

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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."