Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, facing a potential criminal charge for defying a Jan. 6 select committee subpoena, is pleading with the Supreme Court to expedite its consideration of a lawsuit filed by Donald Trump — a decision he notes could get him, and other former Trump aides, off the hook.
In a 34-page brief on Friday, Meadows said he and other Trump aides subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee are caught between a former president — who claims he can still assert executive privilege — and President Joe Biden, who has rejected Trump’s assertions and ordered the release of key documents to congressional investigators.
“[Meadows] and others like him therefore face the difficult choice between volunteering potentially privileged information in defiance of the President under whom they served or to resist a congressional subpoena at great personal expense and with the threat of potential prosecution,” Meadows’ lawyer George Terwilliger III wrote in the brief.
Meadows filed his friend-of-the-court brief in the ongoing lawsuit filed by Trump against the select committee in October. The federal district and appeals courts in Washington, D.C., have forcefully rejected Trump’s effort to overrule Biden, but the matter is now awaiting action at the Supreme Court. The justices are meeting for a conference on Friday, and the House has urged them to reject Trump’s effort to stay the lower-court rulings — and to do so by mid-January.
For Meadows, a decision by the justices to hear the case could spare him potential criminal contempt charges. The House asked the Justice Department last month to charge Meadows for refusing to appear for a deposition, and DOJ has been reviewing the referral for more than three weeks. The department has already charged another Trump ally, Steve Bannon, for refusing to cooperate with the committee. Bannon is slated to go to trial in July.
More than a dozen other Trump aides and associates have filed suit against the committee in recent weeks, trying to block subpoenas for their testimony or phone and banking records. Among them: Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich, pro-Trump radio host Alex Jones, attorney John Eastman and attorney Cleta Mitchell. A slew of operatives who helped organize the pro-Trump Jan. 6 rallly that preceded the attack on the Capitol are also fighting subpoenas for their records.
Meadows appears to believe that Supreme Court consideration of Trump’s case could stave off legal consequences for him and others facing committee subpoenas, since the justices’ ultimate decision would bear on their refusal to testify.
“If the Court were to hold that President Trump has a valid claim of privilege which President Biden cannot waive, or that the Select Committee is not pursuing a valid legislative purpose, then the Select Committee would need to narrow its investigation (or at least go back to the drawing board) in a way that might moot much of the pending litigation,” Terwilliger writes.
Notably, Meadows appears to agree with the House’s sense of urgency. His attorney repeatedly urges the court to make a “timely” decision.
“A prompt answer is important because, however the Court rules, its ruling will guide the parties in all of the related disputes,” Terwillinger writes, noting that even if Trump loses, “[Meadows] and other former officials would be guided by the Court’s decision both in their own litigation and in their broader dealings with the Select Committee.”
Meadows has also filed his own lawsuit seeking to prevent the committee from enforcing its subpoena for his documents and testimony. In that suit, he echoes Trump’s claims about executive privilege and also argues that even former senior White House advisers cannot be forced to testify to Congress. Like Trump, Meadows also alleges that the Jan. 6 committee is conducting an invalid investigation, focused on improper “law enforcement” purposes rather than developing legislation.