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Donald Trump's ex-chief aide Mark Meadows held in contempt of US Congress

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By AP with Euronews
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks on a phone on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on Oct. 30, 2020.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks on a phone on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on Oct. 30, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File

The US House of Representatives voted late on Tuesday to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress after he ceased to cooperate with the January 6 Committee investigating the Capitol insurrection.

It's the first time the House has voted to hold a former member in contempt since the 1830s.

The near-party-line 222-208 vote is the second time the special committee has sought to punish a witness for defying a subpoena.

The vote is the latest show of force by the January 6 panel, which is leaving no angle unexplored — and no subpoena unanswered — as it investigates the worst attack on the Capitol in more than 200 years.

Lawmakers on the panel are determined to get answers quickly, and in doing so reassert the congressional authority that eroded while former President Donald Trump was in office.

Two Republican votes — Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who serve on the committee — voted in favour of the resolution. It came after nine Republicans voted to hold former Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt in October. 

Meadows was Trump’s top aide in the White House, giving him more plausible grounds to claim executive privilege than Bannon, who had not worked in the White House since 2017.

Bannon never engaged with the committee at all — whereas Meadows turned over documents and negotiated for two months with the panel about an interview.

Prosecutors at the Justice Department will decide whether to move forward with the case. If convicted, Bannon and Meadows could each face up to one year behind bars on each charge.

Democrat panel member Jamie Raskin began Tuesday’s debate on the resolution by reading frantic texts from the day of the attack. Members of Congress, Fox News anchors and even Trump’s son urged Meadows to persuade the outgoing president to act quickly to stop the three-hour assault by his supporters.

“We need an Oval Office address," Donald Trump Jr. texted, the committee said, as his father's supporters were breaking into the Capitol, sending lawmakers running for their lives and interrupting the certification of Joe Biden's presidential victory. "He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”

Trump Jr. added, "He’s got to condemn this s—- ASAP." In response to one of Trump Jr.'s texts, Meadows said: “I’m pushing it hard. I agree.”

Members of the committee said the texts raise fresh questions about what was happening at the White House — and what Trump himself was doing — as the attack was underway. 

Many Republicans have defended Meadows, one calling the House action against him "evil". The former White House chief of staff himself has sued the panel, asking a court to invalidate two subpoenas that he says are "overly broad and unduly burdensome."