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Congress considers contempt of Congress charge for Mark Meadows in relation to Jan. 6

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today, a House committee votes on recommending a contempt of Congress charge against Mark Meadows. He's the former chief of staff to Donald Trump, the one-time president. Meadows had been cooperating with an investigation of the attack on the Capitol January 6, but he stopped. Joining us now to discuss all this is NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. Kelsey, good morning.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi. Good morning.

INSKEEP: What is the evidence that Meadows is not cooperating here?

SNELL: Well, the panel released a 51-page document ahead of that contempt vote, and they're basically outlining why Meadows is important to this investigation. So this document includes a list of specific issues they need Meadows to address. And a few things really stuck out because these are questions about documents that Meadows himself provided to the committee. One is an email Meadows sent a day before the attack, saying that the National Guard would be used to defend, quote, "pro-Trump people." Another is a text exchange with an unnamed senator about the power of legislators to reject electors for President Biden. They cite an excerpt where Meadows wrote that Trump thinks the legislators have the power, but the vice president has the power, too.

They also refer to a November 7 effort to get state legislators to appoint a new slate of pro-Trump electors instead of Biden electors. And then there are also these emails from Meadows to officials in the Trump Justice Department in December and early January, urging an investigation into voter fraud. Of course, there was no voter fraud, and those allegations had been rejected by investigators as well as the courts.

INSKEEP: What you're describing are follow-up questions, it seems to me, which emphasizes that Meadows was cooperating for a while. Why did he stop?

SNELL: Well, he was. He was cooperating until last week. And, you know, he was actually preparing for an initial deposition, but his lawyer kind of brought that all to a halt. His lawyer sent a letter to the committee saying that Meadows had agreed to participate, but it was all contingent on him not waiving executive privilege. (Unintelligible) Meadows and his lawyer said that they don't think the committee was going to respect that part of it. Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, who's a Democrat, and Liz Cheney, who's the top Republican on the committee, said they still have several questions based on materials that Meadows himself turned over without claiming privilege. Basically, they're saying, you already gave us this stuff; we have follow-up questions.

Plus, Meadows has a new book out where he details his time working for Trump, and these new documents from the committee actually cite from that book, not even some special committee materials. So they're basically making the argument that if Meadows can talk about this stuff publicly and then write and sell a book based on all of it, he should be talking to the congressional committee specifically created to look into the insurrection.

INSKEEP: Makes it hard to do a book interview if you're not willing to talk about the executive privilege...

SNELL: Right.

INSKEEP: ...Material in your book. But in any case, we're sort of familiar with this process because Steve Bannon has been prosecuted the same way. What happens here?

SNELL: Later today, the committee will vote to recommend a contempt of Congress charge against Meadows for his refusal to cooperate with its subpoena. You know, that charge carries up to a year in prison. The Justice Department, though, still has to decide whether it will pursue those charges. Legal experts note that it might be difficult to prosecute Meadows because he was chief of staff to a president who was still in office and can credibly claim executive privilege because he was in that job when January 6 was happening. That's very different from Steve Bannon. He was a former White House aide who was charged by the Justice Department with contempt of Congress for his refusal to cooperate with the committee.

INSKEEP: NPR's Kelsey Snell. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.